YU Mourns the Passing of Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz zt”l, Renowned Talmudic Scholar and Israel Prize Laureate
The Yeshiva University community mourns the loss of Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, who died on August 7, 2020, in Jerusalem at the age of 83.
Internationally recognized as a pioneer in Torah education and a groundbreaking scholar, Rabbi Steinsaltz was best known for his translation and commentary on the Talmud. A prolific author of more than 60 works, he had a profound impact on Jewish thought and culture. Time described him as a “once-in-a-millennium scholar who beyond translating the Talmud made it more accessible to more Jews than ever before.”
As Rabbi Steinsaltz noted, “Learning cannot be delegated to a special class or sect of people to do. Each individual must do it for himself and herself. … Encouraging Jews to study is not just to educate them but to transmit to them what we ARE.”
The impact he has, and will continue to have, on Talmudic learning at Yeshiva University is enormous, as his translated texts are widely used by students and faculty in and out of the classroom every day. The inspirational books he authored sit among the great works of other renowned scholars on the library shelves at YU as well as in the personal libraries of thousands of members of the YU community throughout the world.
“He was a unique human being. The most brilliant rabbi,” said Ludwig Bravmann, vice chairman of the Yeshiva University Board of Trustees. “He was able to talk about any subject under the sun.”
As noted in the Times of Israel, Steinsaltz’s “crowning achievement” was his 41-volume translation of the Talmud into modern Hebrew, which he began in 1965 and completed in 2010. “It earned him comparisons to the 11th-century French sage Rashi, whose commentary on most of the Talmud and Bible was unmatched in terms of the scope of texts it covered for 1,000 years.”
“He will be remembered for his editions of the Talmud,” said Rabbi Menachem Penner, the Max and Marion Grill Dean of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS). “But for me, it is his essays on the Torah and Jewish thought that I will most cherish as part of my library.” Rabbi Daniel Feldman, a rosh yeshiva at RIETS, noted, “Rabbi Steinsaltz had the vision to bring the breadth and depth of the Torah to the widest population possible and the passion, brilliance, and love of the Jewish people to make that vision a reality.”
Commenting on Rabbi Steinsaltz’s death in a statement on Friday, Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, lauded him as “a Torah genius and a man of exemplary spirit.” Echoing that sentiment, Reuven Rivlin, President of Israel, remembered Steinsaltz as “a man of great spiritual courage, deep knowledge and profound thought who brought the Talmud to Am Yisrael [the People of Israel] in clear and accessible Hebrew and English.”
Born in Jerusalem in 1937, Rabbi Steinsaltz studied physics and chemistry at the Hebrew University, and at the age of 24, he became one of Israel’s youngest school principals. He was instrumental in establishing a network of experimental schools and educational institutions in Israel and the former Soviet Union. Later in his career, he was scholar-in-residence at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Studies in Washington, D. C., and the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton University.
Rabbi Steinsaltz was the recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees throughout his illustrious career. Among them were the Israel Prize for Jewish Studies (1988) and an honorary doctorate from Yeshiva University (1991).
He is survived by his wife, three children and many grandchildren. May they find comfort among all who mourn for Zion and Jerusalem.