Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz is a teacher, philosopher, and spiritual mentor, who was hailed by Time magazine as a “once-in-a-millennium scholar.”
Born in Jerusalem in 1937 to secular parents, he studied mathematics, physics, and chemistry at the Hebrew University, in addition to rabbinical studies. After graduating, he established several experimental schools, and, at the age of 23, became Israel’s youngest school principal.
In 1965, Rabbi Steinsaltz embarked on a lifelong mission to make the Talmud accessible to all. A written compilation of centuries of Judaism’s oral wisdom and its central text of law, ethics, customs, and history, the Talmud was transcribed in the traditional Vilna format, and is a stream of unpunctuated Aramaic, unreadable to nonexperts. Rabbi Steinsaltz translated this language of the Talmud into Hebrew sentences, adding vowels, diagrams and illustrations, explanations and introductions, biographical profiles of the sages, extensive supplementary notes, and detailed indices. In 2012, he completed his monumental, 45-volume translation of the Babylonian Talmud into modern Hebrew – and oversaw its subsequent translation into five other languages.
Beyond deciphering and compiling this dauntingly complex text, Rabbi Steinsaltz is a prolific author in his own right, who has written some 80 books and hundreds of articles addressing Jewish knowledge, mysticism, sociology, philosophy, historical biography, and culture, and has produced original commentaries on the entirety of the Jewish biblical canon. Since 2010, he has been working to publish a series of large projects, including a modern translation and interpretation of the entire canon of Jewish texts (Bible, Mishnah, Gemara, and Tanya), as well as a translation of the Talmud and the Bible into English.
Continuing his work as a teacher and mentor, Rabbi Steinsaltz established a network of schools and educational institutions in Israel and the former Soviet Union. He has served as scholar-in-residence at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey.
Rabbi Steinsaltz’s endeavors have garnered him admiration and praise throughout Israel and around the world. He has received multiple awards and honors, including the 1988 Israel Prize for Jewish Studies, the President and Prime Minister’s Award in memory of Zalman Shazar (2002), Israel’s inaugural President’s Medal of Distinction (2012), the National Jewish Book Award (2012), and the French Order of Arts and Literature. He is also the recipient of honorary doctorate degrees from numerous universities in Israel and the United States.
Rabbi Steinsaltz and his wife have three children and 18 grandchildren.