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Berakhot, Standard Size (Colour): 1 Hardcover – Illustrated, 1 Jun 2012

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Renowned author, revered spiritual leader, innovator, legendary Talmudic scholar, educator, pioneer; Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz is an amalgamation of knowledge, talents, and characteristics.

Rabbi Steinsaltz has dedicated his life to the pursuit of knowledge culminating in the monumental translation and commentary of the Babylonian Talmud into modern vernacular. In parallel, he published over 60 books on a variety of subjects ranging from Jewish mysticism to zoology, set up a network of educational institutions in Israel and the former Soviet Union, and traveled the world lecturing in communities from Virginia to Vladivostok.

Rabbi Steinsaltz holds honorary degrees from Yeshiva University, Ben Gurion University, Bar Ilan University, and Brandeis University, and is a recipient of the Israel Prize and Israel's President's Prize, the country's highest honors

Shefa is the umbrella organization that unites all of Rabbi Adin Evan Israel (Steinsaltz's) work and institutions. Created in the 1970s, in its initial years Shefa's activities focused primarily on the writing and publication of The Steinsaltz Talmud, other books by the Rabbi and on his classes and lectures in Israel and abroad. In addition, the Shefa Yeshiva for advanced Jewish studies operated under its aegis.
Over the past three decades, Rabbi Evan Israel Steinsaltz's activities grew and expanded: creating educational institutions and other organizations for Jewish study in Israel and overseas; continuing to author books on a wide variety of themes; the translation of his published books into more than ten languages; and an intense world-wide travel schedule to teach Jewish thought to beginners and advanced students and scholars.
In 2005, the Shefa Institute was reorganized to ensure the proper management, coordination and operation of all the Rabbi's activities and institutions in Israel and abroad.
Located at the Steinsaltz Center, a beautiful edifice in the heart of Jerusalem that houses the Rabbi's personal study, administrative offices, The Israel Institute for Talmudic Publications, a research center and publishing wing, lecture hall with classes led by the Rabbi and other leading scholars and thinkers, and a department to raise needed funds to spread the message of Jewish study worldwide, Shefa has become the central address for all of Rabbi Adin Evan Israel Steinsaltz's activities.
In 2011, with the completion of his monumental "The Steinsaltz Talmud," an effort which took over 45 years to complete, the Rabbi and his team began working on four major initiatives: The Steinsaltz Mishnah; Commentary to the Bible; Commentary on Maimonides' Mishnah Torah; and an in-depth commentary to the Jewish prayer book, all efforts to provide access to what for so many are closed pages of Jewish thought.
Beyond these new projects, Shefa continues to coordinate the translation of the Steinsaltz Talmud and other publications into many languages and oversees the Rabbis travel itinerary to teach at communities around the world.
All of Shefa's programs are guided by Rabbi Steinsaltz's oft-quoted slogan: "Let My People Know" - a ceaseless, never-ending drive to make the treasures of Jewish culture accessible to all.

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About the Author

Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz is today s leading Talmud scholar. He has been on a life-long mission to make the Talmud accessible to all. Rabbi Steinsaltz s landmark editions of the Talmud in Hebrew, French, and Russian have sold more than a million copies.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 37 reviews
56 of 57 people found the following review helpful
Redefines English-language Talmud study 10 July 2012
By Andrew Marc Greene - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I admire both Rabbi Steinsaltz and Koren Publications greatly. I am very pleased to report that this project blew me away, exceeding my expectations. Although I'm sure acquiring the entire set won't come inexpensively, I will find some way to afford to buy these as they come out. They're that amazing. [Disclaimer: Although Koren has been sending me review copies of some of their books, this review is based on a copy that I borrowed for a few days from my rabbi.]

Some background, for those who have not tried learning Talmud in English before.

Until now, the student of Talmud who needed English help had, realistically, two sources. First was the Soncino translation, done nearly a century ago. It's dry, academic, and literal. It doesn't give you any extra help understanding the text. Second, over the last two decades, Artscroll/Mesorah has published the Schottenstein edition, which goes too far in the other direction. Overwhelming the reader with help, it's extremely useful for beginners but its extensive mix of discursions can get in the way and bog the reader down.

Meanwhile, Rabbi Steinsaltz has spent the past forty years creating a rendition of the Talmud into modern Hebrew. Part translation, part explication, he interpolates just enough background and explanatory material to fill in the gaps, without handholding the reader all the way. His marginalia are masterful: some summarize the practical halacha, some explain the archaeological or biological realia, some provide capsule biographies of personalities mentioned in the Talmud. His vowelization of the main Gemara text imposes grammatical rigor on what, for most readers, is usually an incoherent hodge-podge of Hebrew, Aramaic, Yiddish, and Yeshivish. I think it's fair to say that for the Hebrew reader, Rabbi Steinsaltz has truly revolutionized what it means to learn Gemara; he has done for our generation what Rashi did for his.

The English reader was teased when Random House tried to publish an English version of Rabbi Steinsaltz's work. What they produced was not very usable, though: they were great coffee-table books, but too confusing to use as a study tool, and each tractate required so many English volumes in their edition that it was too expensive. They never finished.

So now Koren has started publishing a new English translation of Rabbi Steinsaltz's rendition. (Yes, it's entirely new; this is not related to the Random House edition at all.) And they have scored on all counts.

The basic format of the book is as follows: If you open it from the Hebrew side, you get a recreation of the Vilna pages, only the main text and Rashi are provided with vowels and punctuation. If you start from the English side, you get a running translation.

The English pages have been designed brilliantly by Raphaël Freeman. As a software developer, I am tempted to use the phrase "information architecture" to describe what has been accomplished here. The main body of the page is a two-column layout, with paragraphs of Hebrew/Aramaic text (from the Gemara, without any interpolations) set next to their English renditions, which are translations of Rabbi Steinsaltz's modern Hebrew rendition. As has become conventional, bold type indicates the translation, while regular-weight type indicates the interpolations. The translation is top-notch, eminently readable, it is not at all stilted or unnatural. (And for those of us who believe that women should not be excluded from their equal inheritance in Torah study, the presence of women on the translation team should be noted.)

Surrounding the main text block are translations of Rabbi Steinsaltz's notes, with headings, as in the original, indicating what each one is. Now here's one of the brilliant touches: in the main text block, superscript sans-serif letters look like footnote indicators, but simply refer you to which section of marginalia to examine. Each note starts with the text it references in bold, in Hebrew and in English, so it's very easy to find the note you're looking for --- and to go back to the main text when you're done. Had they used numbered footnotes, it would have been far more confusing; one thing that has always annoyed me about Artscroll's footnotes, for example, is that you never know whether it's worth interrupting your reading to follow the number. Are they just going to give you a cross-reference, or are they going to explain some concept in depth? Well, with this system, your eyes can easily gloss over notes that you don't want to follow right now, while easily navigating the page when you do.

The mechanics of this cross-referencing system are never explained. They don't need to be. The design is so clear that its use is intuitively obvious, making the complexity of the interrelated texts easily navigable.

The hand-drawn diagrams and fuzzy reproductions of photographs from the original Hebrew have been beautifully updated with full-color versions.

It's tempting to compare these with the DK children's books, and I mean that as a compliment. The photos are clear, eye-catching, relevant, and enhance both the aesthetic experience and the learning. (Just last week, in a class at our synagogue, we were trying to understand the size relationship between unripe grapes, ripe grapes, and white beans. Photos such as these would have made that conversation easier and more rewarding.)

One wish: As wonderful as Rabbi Steinsaltz's explication is, I have sometimes found myself, when using his Hebrew editions, looking at the Rashi on a difficult section. In the Koren English edition, I'll need to use the cross-references at the bottoms of the pages to flip to the Hebrew section to do that. I realize this was necessary to keep the page count manageable, but I anticipate that being an occasional frustration.

Koren Publishers plans to release the entire set over the course of the next four years, faster than the Daf Yomi schedule. I wish them the financial success they deserve; this edition merits to become the new standard for English-language Talmud study.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
An extraordinary gift! 5 Jun. 2012
By Bernard H. Pucker - Published on
Format: Hardcover
What an extraordinary gift to all who would like to enter the world of Talmud in English! Beautifully designed, clearly laid out and engaging. The Hebrew/Aramaic texts with vocalization, the translation that expands the almost coded, laconic text so the questions and possible answers become clearer. Succinct summaries of the specific laws as well as in-depth commentary.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Scholarship par excellence 18 Jun. 2012
By ZenScientist - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is an amazing work of scholarship! It is perfect for the beginner and will open new doors for the experienced. I am in awe of what Koren has done to make the Talmud so accessible to those coming from a variety of backgrounds. The door to Jewish learning just opened up a little more to a whole new generation while renewing a sense of vitality to a work steeped in venerable tradition.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
At last-a clear translation and commentary of Berachit! 15 July 2012
By Barbara S. Sussman - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had been using the Schottenstein version of the Talmud for several years and always found it cumbersome to follw the original text and understand the translation which was very disjointed. RAbbi Steinsaltz makes the task so much easier and much more fun! His commentary and notes do not interfer with the flow of the text. In addition, the Talmud and Rashi text are both vocalized so the Hebrew is much easier to read. A great achievement. I look forward tot eh next volumes!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
It lives up to the promise of the Random House edition 20 July 2012
By Dr R M. Siegfried - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Roughly twenty years ago, I bought Volume I of the Steinsaltz Talmud from Random House (Baba Metzia Part I). It cost me about $49 dollars for Chapter 1 but it was well worth it, because the explanation in many ways was superior to the Artscroll Talmud; it includes the ruling on Jewish law that is being discussed, among other things. Both the high price for a relatively small portion of the tractate and the introduction of the Artscroll Talmud helped lead to Random House's taking it out of print, which led to a mad scramble to get the remaining volumes while they were still there.

Koren's edition preserves all the features that made me fall in love with the Steinsaltz Talmud, but at a price that is much more reasonable, and it also include the pages of the Vilna edition, which makes it easier to use in following a Gemara class.

This is another soon-to-be classic by Koren.
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