web analytics
March 6, 2015 / 15 Adar , 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Talmudic, Tenacious, Tough-Minded: An Interview With Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz is quite the accomplished personality. The author of over 60 books, Rabbi Steinsaltz has also translated the entire Talmud into Hebrew, a project he started in 1965 at the age of 28 and took 45 years to complete. To date, over two million copies of the Steinsaltz Talmud – in Hebrew, English, French, and Russian – have been sold. No wonder Time magazine once dubbed him a “once-in-a-millennium scholar.”

Last month, Rabbi Steinsaltz’s career hit another high as Koren Publishers Jerusalem released the first volume of its English translation of the Steinsaltz Talmud. From 1989-1999, Random House published four masechtot of the Steinsaltz Talmud in English, but then stopped. Koren Publishers has now stepped into the breach.

The new English edition features color illustrations, vowelized and punctuated Gemara pages, and Koren’s signature aesthetic touch. According to Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, the project’s editor-in-chief, the entire set of 41 volumes is scheduled to be published within the next four years. A Steinsaltz Talmud iPad app will also be available soon.

The Jewish Press recently spoke with Rabbi Steinsaltz about the new translation, his background, and various controversies that have surrounded him and his work.

The Jewish Press: Why should someone buy the Steinsaltz Talmud over ArtScroll’s immensely popular Shas?

Rabbi Steinsaltz: Look, it’s not the same. I would put it in the following way: When you learn from my Gemara, I hope that you get a kick to learn further, and that you don’t feel that you know everything and that all the problems are answered.

Does the ArtScroll Shas not do that as well?

I think ArtScroll gives too much in a way. Everything is in there. I’m trying to have it in a way that you study and want more.

Basically I want, not just that you will look at the Gemara, but that you will get involved in it. You cannot learn Gemara completely passively. You have to be a participant.

There are two parts to what Hillel HaZaken said about kol haTorah kulah. One part is always quoted – “What you don’t want done to you, don’t do to others.” But the other part – “And all the rest go and learn” – is no less important.

I hope to have people who will learn and say, “We want to know more, we have more questions.”

You started translating Shas into Hebrew at the age of 28. What led you to embark on this enormous project and what gave you the confidence that you’d be able to do it?

For the first part of the question, I will just tell you it’s what makes people want to climb Mount Everest – the mountain is there, the challenge is there, and the need is there. So you do it.

[In terms of being able to translate Shas], I thought at the time, and other people thought as well, that I was able to do it. Hopefully I didn’t disappoint.

Were you scared of embarking on such a major project at such a young age?

Well, I’m not a scared person – not of bullets and not of ideas.

But why assume such a major undertaking?

Because the Talmud is the central pillar of Judaism, and if the central pillar is not at hand for most people, they miss something very important. The Talmud was, in so many ways, a closed book for many people – so I tried to open it.

In the original editions of the Steinsaltz Talmud, you changed the traditional look – the tzuras hadaf – of the pages, for which you were heavily criticized. For the new edition of the Hebrew and English Steinsaltz Talmud, however, you restored the old look. Why did you originally change it and why did you restore it?

Look, in the beginning, it just couldn’t be done. All the additional material couldn’t be put on the old pages. I tried twenty-odd formats, and found out that if I used the traditional page, it would be at least two and a half times as big, which wouldn’t be usable. So the question is: What do you do – duplicate the page as ArtScroll did or cut it?

What I originally did in my Hebrew Gemaras was cut it. About 150 years ago in Poland, an edition with exactly the same kind of half pages was published. They made notes about why this was needed and [said] there was nothing holy about the other format. The traditional page is after all just a page. Even sifrei Torah can be written in different ways; surely Gemaras can be done differently too.

About the Author: Elliot Resnick is a Jewish Press staff reporter and author of “Movers and Shakers: Sixty Prominent Personalities Speak Their Mind on Tape” (Brenn Books).


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

3 Responses to “Talmudic, Tenacious, Tough-Minded: An Interview With Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz”

  1. Jonathan Weber says:

    I bought the new Koren Publishers Berachot. I can say as a secular teacher, it is the ultimate teaching tool. Everything is so crystal clear. You don't need to study with a Rabbi to learn from it. Kol HaKavod… Yesher Koach!

  2. Atraf Creez says:

    BS"D
    As a "religious" Jew,I understand what you say Jonathan,but as is universally known & Rav Shteinszaltz says ,he made his version for people that won't think they understand the whole page they learned.& as our Sages say,whoever thinks he has learned the whole Gemorrah missed the point,he hasn't even learned the first page.
    (The Gemorrah starts on page 2).
    If I understand what you meant to say, that this edition is so well done,you could learn on your own and gain much insight.But think how much more with a teacher.

  3. Atraf Creez says:

    Many Chabad-Lubavitch Chasidim if asked are they connected to the Rebbe will answer the same.We TRY to be (sometimes, often, not enough).Try telling an agnostic Jew "O, so you aren't really Jewish".He would blow up."How can you say that of me?"Ask an honest religious Jew if he is religious."How often a day do you mean?" "Are you asking me how many hours I serve HaShem during the day & how many I serve myself?". A Jew is a Jew is a Jew. Same with a Chasid.But you can't ask a Chasid to grade himself/herself.We just hope that our actions bear fruit.

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., the United States, calling for rejection of a bad nuclear deal with Iran, on March 03, 2015.
Post-Bibi Bipartisanship May Result in Congressional Ability to Review Iran Deal
Latest Indepth Stories
Ron Prosor

Values at the very heart of the UN are threatened by extremist ideologies targeting our way of life

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Anti-Semitism today focuses on Israel and the quest to delegitimize it.

Ballots for elections "made in Samaria."

Any Jew who ties his fate to Israel should be able to vote in Israel’s elections-even before aliyah

A young Moshe Meir Weiss introduces his mother, Mrs. Agnes Weiss Goldman, to Rav Moshe in 1979.

There were no airs about him. Rav Moshe was affectionately known as the Gaon of Normalcy.

Israel’s full sovereignty over a united Jerusalem is the only path for true peace in the region.

Just like Moses and Aaron, Mordechai decides to ruin the party…

The president has made clear – I can’t state this more firmly – the policy is Iran will not get a nuclear weapon.

Obama has an apparent inability to understand Islam in particular and Mid-East culture in general

Pesach is a Torah-based holiday whose fundamental observances are rooted in Torah law; Purim is a rabbinic holiday whose laws and customs are grounded in the rabbinic tradition.

In honor of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s successful speech before Congress.

Mr. Spock conveys a message with painfully stark relevance to our world today, especially in the context of PM Netanyahu’s speech to Congress.

Obama created the “partisan politics” by asking Dem. party members to avoid Bibi and his address

Enough is enough. The Jewish community has a big tent, but the NIF should have no place in it.

I vote for the right and get left-wing policy. Every. Frigging. Time.

More Articles from Elliot Resnick

I said to myself, “This story has got to be told. We’re losing this generation of World War II and if we don’t listen to them now, we’ve lost it.”

Nouril concluded he had no choice: He had to become more observant.

I was very pro-Israel, I was very proud of being Jewish, and I was living in New York at the time as a single man in my 20s and I was just looking for a little bit more.

A school voucher means the state is giving you a voucher to send your kid to whatever school you want. That might be problematic as far church-state issues are concerned.

It’s not an admiration. It is simply a kind of journalist fascination. It stands out, it’s different from more traditional Orthodoxy.

To many Orthodox Jews the issue is “Permitted & Prohibited;” “Right & Wrong” barely considered,

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/interviews-and-profiles/talmudic-tenacious-tough-minded-an-interview-with-rabbi-adin-steinsaltz/2012/06/20/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: