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?” Algemeiner.com October 19, 2006