Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz died Friday in Jerusalem at the age of 83

The rabbi, who is best known for translating the Talmud into modern Hebrew, had been in the hospital with a lung infection since Tuesday.

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz (photo credit: COURTESY STEINZALTZ CENTER)
Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz
, Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz, considered to be one of the greatest commentators on Judaism of this generation, passed away Friday after suffering from acute pneumonia. He was 83 years old, and was buried on Friday on the Mount of Olives.
Steinsaltz was a Torah scholar of prodigious knowledge, an author, educator and educational innovator, and had a profound impact on Jewish thought and religious study during his lifetime.
The Jerusalem-born rabbi was best known for his monumental translation and commentary of the Babylonian Talmud – the first person to achieve such an accomplishment alone since the 11th-century scholar Rashi. He began the project in 1965 and completed it in 2010.
Translating the Talmud into modern Hebrew became the center of Steinsaltz’s life after he founded the Israel Institute for Talmudic publications in 1965, later the Steinsaltz Center, in conjunction with the government of Israel.
Ultimately, he published The Talmud: The Steinsaltz Edition, which made learning the complicated Jewish text easier and more accessible. This work was later translated into French, Spanish, English and Russian, though the translations took many years to complete.
Four years ago, Steinsaltz finished his commentary on the Torah, 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 Bible, in both English and Hebrew, while his commentary on the six books of Mishna are due to be published in the coming months.
The US Library of Congress recently announced the acceptance into its catalog of an English translation of an extensive work about the Steinsaltz Center and its intellectual labors.
He was awarded the Israel Prize, Israel’s highest civilian honor, for this remarkable work. He also received the President’s Medal in 2012, and the Yakir Yerushalayim prize in 2017.
Steinsaltz also authored more than 60 books on Jewish thought, life and mysticism, and was also involved in educational initiatives in the former Soviet Union, founding the Free Jewish University in Moscow in 1990 and the Institute for Jewish Leadership Training in the CIS to promote Jewish identity among assimilated Jews.
In a 2016 interview with The Jerusalem Post, Steinsaltz talked of what he believed to be the true purpose of the rabbinate and the attributes needed for it to succeed.
He asserted the need of rabbis to possess a dynamism of character, charisma, intelligence and the ability to give congregants spiritual and moral advice.
At the same time, he dismissed the Chief Rabbinate as irrelevant in terms of its influence, arguing that there is no real societal group that actually pays attention to the institution, other than for its statutory functions.
Steinsaltz suffered from a serious stroke in 2016, leaving him with aphasia from which he never recovered.
He was being treated at Shaare Zedek since Tuesday for a serious lung infection.
“From the depths of my heart, I lament the passing of Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, whose knowledge was vast, a Torah genius and a man of exemplary spirit,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement on Friday.
“While I grew up close to Rabbi Steinsaltz in the Jerusalem of my childhood, I was privileged to know him only years later. I met with him several times at his home and I heard his fascinating lessons, which always imparted knowledge to me.
“These weren’t lessons in a conventional sense but spiritually uplifting conversations that embraced the entire world – Tanach, the wisdom of our sages, history, philosophy, culture, linguistics and more,” he continued. “I read his books that were imbued with wisdom, knowledge, contemplation and faith.”
President Reuven Rivlin also offered condolences, writing on his Twitter account: “Our hearts mourn the passing of Rabbi Adin Even Israel Steinsaltz. He was a man of great spiritual courage, deep knowledge and profound thought who brought the Talmud to Am Yisrael in clear and accessible Hebrew and English. May his memory be a blessing.”
Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion said that Rabbi Steinsaltz managed to reach people who were far from Judaism and brought them closer.
“The wisdom and humility of Rabbi Steinsaltz has touched many who mourn today,” Lion said.
Several other politicians offered their condolences, too. New Right head Naftali Bennett called the rabbi’s passing “painful,” added that he was “a fountain of the wisdom of Israel and one of the greatest thinkers and scholars of the last generation. We owe him a huge debt for making the treasures of the wisdom of Israel accessible in a language deep and equal to every soul.”
Similarly, Jerusalem Affairs Minister Rafi Peretz called Steinsaltz “a noble and humble man, who, with the help of his life’s work, brought many closer to Judaism. He was a truly righteous man.”
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