A colourful Talmud for our times

By Simon Rocker, June 8, 2012

The arrival of the Koren Talmud must be the Judaica publishing event of the year. It combines the production quality for which the Jerusalem-based publishers are renowned with the pioneering commentary and translation of Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz.

Steinsaltz’s labours over almost half a century have opened the ancient text to readers beyond the yeshivah world, a resource whose value which will probably only begin to be appreciated in generations to come. The Talmud, he has said, is the “real gateway to Judaism”, its knowledge essential to the survival of any Jewish community.

The full 38-volume set of his monumental modern Hebrew edition of the Babylonian Talmud is now available at £790. It has been designed not only for print but for the screen with an iPad app version due to launch in July.

Also, the first three volumes of Steinsaltz’s as yet unfinished English translation are being published at £39.99 apiece (or £29.99 in a smaller edition). Koren project that the English edition will take four years to complete in 41 volumes.

Significantly, the Talmud text (as well as Rashi’s commentary) is printed with vowels and punctuated, making it far easier for students to follow. The translation is clearly laid out in paragraphs rather than dense columns of print and amplified with explanations, while the extensive English commentary has separate sections summarising points of Jewish law, examining the language and giving historical and other background.

A liberal helping of colour illustrations also make it a departure from the black and white austerity of most Talmuds.

Last updated: 12:44pm, June 8 2012