One of Judaism’s great commentators, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, dies at age 83

August 9, 2020 by JNS
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Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz, one of Judaism’s exceptional modern-day commentators, died in Jerusalem after suffering from acute pneumonia. He was 83 years old.

Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz. Credit: Courtesy of the Steinsaltz Centre

Steinsaltz was born in Jerusalem on July 11, 1937. His scholarship was noted at an early age. He studied mathematics, chemistry and physics from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and after graduating began his career as an educator and a school principal in Jerusalem. It was also the beginning of his writing a great many varied Jewish books.

In 1965, in conjunction with the Government of Israel, he founded the Israel Institute for Talmudic Publications, later the Steinsaltz Centre, which became his life’s work—helping to make Judaism and the heritage of Israel accessible by translating and explaining the Babylonian Talmud to the whole world.

Steinsaltz is considered one of the most important contemporary Jewish religious commentators and thinkers. His writings and philosophical works have been translated into dozens of languages to the benefit of millions of people all over the world. He authored as many as 60 books on various topics, including guides to and commentaries on the Talmud, the Torah, Jewish mysticism, Chassidism, Jewish philosophy and more.

He later took on the name Even-Israel (“Stone of Israel”).

One of the rabbi’s most renowned and significant projects was the Steinsaltz-Talmud, a translation from the original Aramaic, alongside an annotated explanation to all 2,711 pages of the Babylonian Talmud.

Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz (holding Torah scroll). Credit: Courtesy of the Steinsaltz Centre

Four years ago, the rabbi finished his commentary on the Torah (The Pentateuch), as well as on the writings of the Prophets Jeremiah, Isaiah and Ezekiel, and on the book of Psalms. In recent years, he went on to complete the full commentary of the Old Testament, in both English and Hebrew, while his commentary on the six books of the Mishnah are due to be published in the coming months.

His work earned him recognition and praise in Israel and around the world. Time magazine called him a “once-in-a-millennium scholar,” while the long list of awards and degrees he received included the Israel Prize for Jewish Studies in 1988, the President’s Medal in 2012, the Yakir Yerushalayim (“Beloved of Jerusalem”) Medal in 2017, and honorary doctorates from Bar-Ilan University, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Yeshiva University in New York.

The U.S. Library of Congress recently announced the acceptance into its catalogue of an English translation of an extensive work about the Steinsaltz Centre and its work.

The Steinsaltz Centre in Jerusalem has served as an umbrella organization, coordinating the rabbi’s various activities and initiatives, and it will continue to do so in his memory. The organization includes a publishing house, and works to establish educational institutions- and promote informal education projects. The centre remains dedicated to promoting the rabbi’s vision of making Jewish learnings and Jewish culture accessible to all.

Steinsaltz is survived by his wife, Sarah; their three children; and many grandchildren.

JNS

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