Rabbi Steinsaltz
Rabbi Steinsaltz Hezki Baruch

To mark a month since the passing of world renowned Talmudic and Torah scholar Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz, The Steinsaltz Center hosted last night (Tuesday) an online event entitled, “The Steinsaltz Legacy: Jewish Learning for All. Today, Tomorrow, Always”, with guest speakers including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Former UK Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer, Former US Senator Joseph Lieberman, award winning actress Mayim Bialik, and Rabbi Meni Even-Israel, son of the late Rabbi Steinsaltz.

The event was chaired by Ilan Kaufthal, president of the Aleph Society – an institution founded by Rabbi Steinsaltz to help facilitate the distribution and promotion of his teaching and work. Mr. Kaufthal introduced the event and explained, “Tonight we are coming together across the world, which is so fitting because the late Rabbi Steinsaltz transformed Jewish life on every continent. His majestic Talmud translation and commentary has been translated into six languages. His works are considered as classic texts, and include more than 300 volumes on Jewish theology, philosophy, mysticism and more. But he understood that books will sit on the shelf until readers are inspired to open them. He was the quintessential teacher, meeting Jews from all walk of life around the world,” and noted that he received acclaim from the New York Times, Time Magazine and more aside, but that, “even this praise does not capture his appeal and impact.”

Paying tribute to the Rabbi, Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu noted that, “He knew how to explain simply the most complicated issues, thanks to his clear intellect, his humane sensitivity, and his never ending reservoir of knowledge.”

The Prime Minister recalled that in their discussions they would speak about a vast array of subjects, and recalled Rabbi Steinsaltz, “had such a deep love for the heritage of our people, for our past, present and future.”

He concluded by saying that, “His books made the Talmud accessible to the whole world, and it’s no surprise that the whole world recognized his greatness. We are greatly indebted to him. To study his works in our schools is the bare minimum we can do to honor his memory.”

Israel’s ambassador to the US Ron Dermer, spoke of his great respect for the Rabbi as an educator of so many students of so many years. He said, “His books and lectures opened up the gates of knowledge to hundreds of thousands of Jews and more. I am confident that future generations will be walking through these gates centuries from now.”

He noted that the Rabbi was “A powerful social critic,” and, “lived at the intersection of many worlds, and was communicating with all of them simultaneously. Some heard, others didn’t, but the power of his words remain.”

He urged viewers of the tribute, “Re-read the Rav’s writings and speeches, and I guarantee they take on a new meaning every time, because truth is timeless.”

Former US Senator Joe Lieberman also paid tribute to the Rabbi and noted, “No one did more to further the unprecedented availability of Jewish texts and commentaries than Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, in his scholarship.”

Former UK Chief Rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks gave the example of the Talmudic account of Rabban Gamliel’s replacement as president of the Jewish elders, to show the belief that, “God wants the doors of the Beit Midrash (Torah study hall) to be opened wide. That was the extraordinary work done by the late Rabbi Steinsaltz. He opened the doors of the Beit Midrash wide in the way that had not been done since the commentaries of Rashi.”

He added, “This was not a stray aspiration. He knew that the very essence of Judaism depends on the democratisation of knowledge. He never halted, never gave up. When we look today at the number of people studying the Talmud, men and women, that is Rabbi Steinsaltz’s merit. He made this possible. For many generations to come, people will find the doors of Beit Midrash open, thanks to him.” He concluded by saying, “He was one of the great Jews or our time, and of all time.”

Also paying tribute to Rabbi Steinsaltz was award winning Hollywood actress Mayim Bialik, who spoke of her own journey of learning and growing closer to Judaism. She said, “I learned Rabbi Steinsaltz’s name alongside the great sages of our people. His work was just about as foundational in my learning, as that of the great sages. It is with great honour that I honour his memory and his legacy,” and added emotionally, “Thank you Rabbi Steinsaltz.”

A leading figure in Chabad, Rabbi Sholom Lipskar spoke of Rabbi Steinsaltz’s interactions with the Rebbe, and their close bond. He noted of Rabbi Steinsaltz, that it was a great privilege to, “watch him and his intensity, coupled with his humility and simplicity, connecting with Hashem and at the same time with every single person in the room.” He explained that the Lubavitcher Rebbe actually changed Rabbi Steinsaltz’s name, adding Even-Israel, the rock of Israel, symbolising the tremendous impact his teachings had on all the Jewish people.

Commenting on the event, Rabbi Meni Even-Israel, son of the late Rabbi Steinsaltz said, “We saw this evening just a small taste of the tremendous impact my father had on people all over the world, from all walks of life. Jews and non-Jews, men and women, young and old. We remain dedicated to his mission and his legacy, and together with so many of his students across the globe, his teachings will live on, spreading love and appreciation for the Torah, and respect for our fellow man.”

The event was joined by thousands of viewers across four different continents.