Wednesday, June 4, 2008

"Almost everything fascinates me"

During the years that I have read the writings of Rabbi Steinsaltz or have attended hundreds of his lectures I have learned that he rarely speaks about himself personally.

But several years ago, Rabbi William Berkowitz said to Rabbi Steinsaltz:

"I think everyone has an image of a Talmudic scholar as one who sits all day before the Gemora and studies. I know that your day is preferably an 18–if not a 20–our day. And yet, reading some of your biographical material, I see a man, one of the greatest Talmudic minds of our twentieth century, who finds time to have hobbies. I’m curious; what are your hobbies? And do they in any way relate to your Talmudic study?"

Rabbi Steinsaltz replied:

My first hobby is the Talmud because by profession I am, or I have to describe myself as, a defrocked mathematician. I began as a teacher of mathematics and physics.

I was caught by the Talmud and I really did not want to be a Talmudist.

I wanted to deal with it as a hobby, but the hobby grew.

I’m still in love with that hobby of mine.

At the same time, I’m interested in almost everything – from detective stories to science fiction to mathematics to animals.

I am also interested in people – sometimes I even like them.

I am interested in good literature, even though I do not read enough of it.

I prefer children’s stories to most earnest literature.

I am interested in science for many reasons, and sometimes in politics.

Sometimes I’m also interested in football, if I have time to watch it; if not, I at least read about it in the newspapers.

So I’m interested in what people are interested in, and not because I have some reason, but because I am curious.

I am still trying to learn, and almost everything fascinates me.

So as long as there is something to learn, I like to learn more and to know more about everything.

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From "How Can We Make Judaism Less Boring?" October 19, 2006