Apparently some of the works of Rabbi Steinsaltz were banned. What are the specific examples that prompted the ban? Is there a list of all of his works that have been banned, as I am interested in knowing if this ban is limited to his previous works or if it applies to his new shas project with Koren publishing as well?

  • ok, I'm pleading ignorance here. I have read through the letter by myself and with a Hebrew teacher. It seems to be a rationalization, not an explanation. A claim that adding in peirushim is problematic is, by itself, easily dismissed. This is a slippery slope argument because one could make the same claim about including rashi. The later claim to apikorsus with no details or examples is a "take my word for it" kind of claim. this does not, to my limited understanding, give any explanation as to what exactly is wrong with the text. so any insight would be appreciated.
    – rosends
    Commented Jun 26, 2012 at 16:18
  • @Dan thank you! that's exactly what I was asking, clearly without putting it quite so well. I didn't see any real explanation so I was trying to understand what the reason was. Commented Jun 26, 2012 at 16:22
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    Dozens of extremely reputable and inmportant rabbis over the years supported the work of Rabbi Steinsaltz. Here are just two examples: haskamot from Rabbi Moshe Feinstein and the Lubavitcher Rebbe for Rabbi Steinsaltz's Hebrew edition of the Talmud, upon which the new English edition is based: korenpub.com/EN/tal-haskamot.htm
    – user1652
    Commented Jun 27, 2012 at 9:40
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    The reason for the ban is discussed in detail here: yoel-ab.com/katava.asp?id=115
    – user6891
    Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 3:27
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    R. Aharon Feldman published a long critique of the Steinsaltz Talmud in his book The Eye of the Storm. While he declined to discuss any potential theological/hashkafic issues, and did not issue a ban, he concluded that it does not do a good job as an aide for Talmud study.
    – Alex
    Commented Dec 29, 2017 at 5:11

5 Answers 5


I have an old copy of The Jewish Observer that discusses the ban. It seems a couple comments in his translation of the Talmud implied that certain sages ruled consistently in a particular fashion (e.g. stringently) because their personality inclined in that direction. Some were worried that readers would infer that the sages were allowing their personal biases to influence their rulings, and doubt their authority. However, this does not appear to have been the intent of those comments, but merely to point out the consistent pattern among the sages' rulings. To my knowledge, none of his other works were banned.

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    boric, welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks for the informative answer, which would be even more so if you'd edit into it bibliographic info (e.g. what month and year the JO issue is from). I hope you stick around and enjoy the site.
    – msh210
    Commented Jun 26, 2012 at 18:31
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    i think shmuel is right -- I recall as a child, learning about the personalities of hillel and shammai and how they affected certain behaviors and rulings in terms of the chumra and kula positions. if this is what triggered a response to Shteinzaltz then it should be applied much more liberally to many other people.
    – rosends
    Commented Jun 26, 2012 at 20:41
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    @baruch: if you still have access to the Jewish Observer, can you tell us the date it was published (and issue number, if applicable), thanks.
    – Menachem
    Commented Jun 29, 2012 at 5:35
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    @Menachem: I will try to dig it up and add that information.
    – Baruch
    Commented Jul 2, 2012 at 19:28
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    @Baruch did you ever manage to procure that JO article?
    – Zvi
    Commented Jan 18, 2015 at 10:33

My Rabbi once told me that HaRav Shach ZSWQ"L didn't like the idea of changing the Surat HaDaf of the Gemara.

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    If you read the link provided by the questioner you'll see there was more to it.
    – Dov F
    Commented Jun 26, 2012 at 1:40

The link provided in the question has all the answers! (and i'm dissapointed no one is pointing out the obvious so now i have to comment)

Here I simply quote in English (making use of google translate feature), from the said site above, some of the more controversial examples of comments from Steinsaltz.

"..."Moshe sees and knows his own limitations ... In his approach to the people he must always avail himself of people who have A closer relationship to the problems of the Jewish people. In a certain sense it seems that Moses can never fully understand the so-called 'simple man'. The great limitation of Moses is that there is a gap between himself and the people. Although he cares for their needs, he can not take seriously their problems and wishes ... In the end he can not relate to the great people that he leads as adults"

"אכן על ראשיתה ותחילת התפתחותה של התורה שבעל פה יש בידינו רק מעט ידיעות..." (עמ' 14). "Indeed, at the beginning and start of the development of the Oral Law, we have only a little knowledge ..." (p. 14).

this summary over the generations, decisions on one side have been gradually changed to another, and therefore a considerable part of the Halachot has not yet reached an absolute consolidation ..." . Everything is developing. Everything can be changed. "Natural process" of "gradual" development

Bar Yochai is a "gloomy and mystical figure." "In later generations it was attributed to him the composition of the book of the Kabbalah, the Zohar, in which he is the main protagonist"

"... the custom of Israel in recent generations of inviting a rabbi to perform the wedding ceremony is from the late Middle Ages and partly by imitation of the Christian example... "

"The very existence of a written marriage contract between husband and wife is Very early. And it is already mentioned in the laws of Hammurabi, long before the giving of the Torah , but the shape and contents of this contract vary according to the times, according to the nature of the culture in which they are made. The sages were very careful to make such a contract ... "(p. 97).

You can see the site for the sources, but they are in Hebrew. It seems to me that people defending Steinsaltz must either improve upon my translations, or explain the true intent behind the words to coincide with accepted orthodox opinion, or are unfamiliar with the actual opinions of Steinsaltz.

  • Is there a list of all of his works that have been banned, as I am interested in knowing if this ban is limited to his previous works or if it applies to his new shas project with Koren publishing as well?
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Dec 28, 2017 at 17:13
  • @mevaqesh that was part of the OP Commented Dec 28, 2017 at 17:15
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    Why are these quotes not reflecting accepted orthodox opinion? Just because they aren't your opinion doesn't make them non Orthodox
    – Double AA
    Commented Dec 28, 2017 at 20:01
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    @DoubleAA Those doing the banning don't think that these opinions are orthodox. Commented Dec 28, 2017 at 22:22
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    @DonielF It would definitely help if he would cite sources that the Poskim quoted by the OP don't hold of these lines, but knowing their attitude, it's not outlandish that people like R' Vosner, Shach, or Eliyashiv would find these quotes beyond the pale. Commented Dec 28, 2017 at 22:30

Probably because he also authored books prior to his becoming religious. Long ago I recall reading a book of his on Sampson, which hardly could have been something he wrote as a religious scholar. The book depicted Sampson as a tough hombre rather than the great tzaddik Sampson really was!

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    How do you know he really was a great tzaddik?
    – Double AA
    Commented Jul 18, 2017 at 11:42
  • A tzadik can be a tough hombre You need to provide details as to what you mean. Was that book banned? Commented Jul 18, 2017 at 12:32
  • +1 If you read through the linked article in the question you will see that the two reasons you presented here were part of what was objected to. Basically to write critically and in a secular way was a major issue taken up. That was compounded by the fact that anyone in history who criticism was accepted was only by great and holy rabbis. Not just someone with a secular opinion.
    – user6591
    Commented Jul 18, 2017 at 17:45
  • Did he write it before becoming religious, or is it because he wrote controversial books after becoming religious. If you can verify either way, it would look like an answer. Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 21:03
  • Double aa - I have no knowledge of my own. What I write is from my learning Torah from Chabad rebbeim literature but don't recall to pinpoint the source. I do remeber reading somewhere that שמשון was the Tzaddik or Nassi Hador. One thing the Baal Hatanya speaks of is a tzaddik's presence being felt even more strongly once he passes on; Perhaps in such context I recall the fact that even after שמשון passed on, his influence held strong for 20 more years against the Philistines.
    – ruffy
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 6:22

The Internet was also banned, so if one is paying heed to bans, it makes little sense being on the Internet inquiring about it.

But, as for what prompted the ban, perhaps two factors were in play:

1) As Rav Mordechai Gifter said about Adas Korach:

And this is experienced in every generation, that of those who are diligent and precise in mitzvos, the fire of controversy moves them against their own will and against the will of their Creator.

2) As one commenter in the a Hirhurim thread writes:

IIRC, R Leiman thought that the ban was inspired by the fact that R Steinsalz’s English edition was being published by Random House, which had beaten ArtScroll to the secular and English speaking audiences.

Any other details are secondary.

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    -1. This doesn't seem to answer the question, which sought a list of R'AS's works that prompted the ban and a list of works included in it. (Plus, item 1 seems unnecessarily snide.)
    – msh210
    Commented Jun 26, 2012 at 15:33
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    true, though it answers the edited-out original "Why was this done?". a list of works presupposes that these works were what really prompted the ban. Snideness is sometimes the appropriate response to those who seek to ban, or drudge-up old bans and controversies. Commented Jun 26, 2012 at 15:35
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    I'm not familiar with the halacha regarding snideness as an appropriate response to a discussion of banned works. I would assume it is meritorious to try to understand why something was banned so that I can make an educated decision about it. I understand why the internet was banned and chose to ignore that ban, I may very well chose to do the same with Rav Steinsaltz's works, but I can't do so without understanding the nature of the ban in the first place. Commented Jun 26, 2012 at 15:57
  • Who said halacha? This is the appropriate response, IMHO, because dignifying it with a 'real' response lends credence to the question, and the ban. (Snideness also does not mean that something isn't true.) But surely someone else can translate and summarize your link for you, if that is what you are asking. BTW, is that what you were asking for? Commented Jun 26, 2012 at 16:20
  • I would question the assertion that the first sentence in this answer is unnecessary. The whole answer is an attempt to challenge the assertion that this ban, and others, are meritorious. Just like the rest of the answer, that first sentence serves to point out possible hypocrisy of those who pursue or endorse bans. Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 12:21

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