The Steinsaltz edition has opened the Talmud to many Jews who would otherwise never have considered even attempting to study the ancient texts which are the bedrock of modern Judaism.
With the siyum (completion) of the final volume, Rabbi Steinsaltz will complete what has been his life's work – the translation of the Babylonian Talmud into modern Hebrew, making the Aramaic text accessible to modern Jews. The Steinsaltz edition of the Talmud, according to many in the yeshiva world, has opened the Talmud to many Jews who would otherwise never have considered even attempting to study the ancient texts which are the bedrock of modern Judaism - and indeed, inspired a host of other translations, such as Artscroll's Schottenstein Edition.
Until Rabbi Steinsaltz began the translation project in 1965, the Talmud's layout – in the traditional “Vilna” format – had remained unchanged since the Talmud's first printing press editions in the late Middle Ages. Among the innovations that the Steinsaltz Talmud developed to make Talmud learning easier was the vowelization of the Aramaic words of the text itself, and a translation that incorporates and translates the Talmudic text into a running explanation and commentary, based for the most part on the elucidations of the Jewish sage Rashi. In addition to the translation/commentary, the Steinsaltz edition includes descriptions of Jewish culture and life during Talmudic times, and biographies of the personalities and rabbis featured in each folio.
The Global Day of Jewish Learning will unite Jews from around the world, who will tune in on the internet to join with Rabbi Steinsaltz himself to celebrate the completion of the last volume of the translation, Hulin (a complicated volume which deals with matters of kashruth). Rabbi Steinsaltz will lead a siyum (completion of a Talmud folio) of the Talmudic volume Ta'anit, which deals with the laws of fast days. The volume was being learned since last May at Rabbi Steinsaltz's Shefa Center in Jerusalem, with weekly classes led by important figures from the Jewish world.
Born in 1937 to a secular family, Rabbi Steinsaltz studied at Hebrew University and was Israel’s youngest high school principal at the age of 23. He began his monumental work on the Talmud in 1965, under the auspices of Israel’s President Zalman Shazar and Knesset Speaker Kaddish Luz. Now, 45 years later, the Steinsaltz edition is also being translated and published in French, Russian and English; a Spanish edition is being prepared.
In addition to the Steinsaltz Talmud, Rabbi Steinsaltz has authored more than 50 books and hundreds of articles on Jewish mysticism, religious thought, sociology, biography, and philosophy. In addition to the Talmud, his best known works are The Thirteen Petalled Rose, a book of Kabbalah; The Essential Talmud, which serves as an introduction to the work; and Biblical Images, character sketches of men and women of the Bible. He is also the author of a 10-volume commentary on Tanya, an early work of Hasidic philosophy.
The Global Day is being celebrated at schools and community centers throughout the world. A complete list of sites is available at the Global Day website, where viewers can also watch the siyum on line. Materials for the Global Day can also be downloaded for free from the site.