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August 7, 2020 10:54 am

Jewish World Mourns Passing of Renowned Talmudic Scholar Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

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The late Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Photo:

The Jewish world was in mourning on Friday following the death of Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz — the scholar who revolutionized the study of Jewish texts with his rich and accessible commentaries on the Bible and the Talmud — at the age of 83.

Born in Jerusalem’s Katamon neighborhood in 1937 into a secular family, Steinsaltz developed a fascination with the Jewish religious tradition while in high school — a development that was to result in an unparalleled career as a Jewish religious scholar and advocate.

He was best known for his 41-volume translation of the Talmud into modern Hebrew, becoming the first rabbi since the 11th-century French sage Rashi to complete such a task. Published in 2010, this monumental work has since been translated into English.

Steinsaltz wrote over 60 books on Jewish thought, life and mysticism. Among his many achievements was the foundation of The Free Jewish University in Moscow in 1990, the first openly-religious educational institution to serve the Jewish community in the former Soviet Union.

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Honors he received in Israel included the Israel Prize, the Presidents’ Medal and the Yakir Yerushlayaim Prize. He held honorary doctorates from Bar-Ilan University, Ben-Gurion University, and Yeshiva University.

Tributes to Steinsaltz were led by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Rivlin lauded 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, like a modern-day Rashi.”

In a deeply-personal message, Netanyahu declared, “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.”

Netanyahu recalled his many discussions with Steinsaltz at the rabbi’s Jerusalem home, describing them as “spiritually uplifting conversations that embraced the entire world — Tanakh, the wisdom of our sages, history, philosophy, culture, linguistics and more. I also read his books that were imbued with wisdom, knowledge, contemplation and faith.”

In a statement on behalf of the Conference of European Rabbis (CER), Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt remarked that Steinsaltz had “left a great legacy within the Jewish people, popularizing the Talmud for the greater public and illuminating the Torah with a new light.”

Goldschmidt also highlighted Steinsaltz’s work in the former Soviet Union, noting that as “one of the great intellectual giants of our generation, he embraced Soviet Jewry at the time of the opening of the Iron Curtain by creating a learning center in Moscow.”

The World Jewish Congress (WJC) said in a statement that it mourned the passing of “one of the greatest Jewish scholars and teachers of our time.”

“In his gentle, unassuming manner, he taught thousands upon thousands the beauty and depth of Jewish culture and tradition, making the Talmud accessible to contemporary and future generations as never before,” the WJC commented.

Steinsaltz’s funeral took place in Jerusalem on Friday afternoon. He was laid to rest at the Mount of Olives in a ceremony that was streamed online to thousands of viewers.

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