Noted Talmudic scholar Rabbi Adin (Even-Israel) Steinsaltz was one of six recipients of Israel’s first Presidential Awards of Distinction.

Awarded Monday by President Shimon Peres, the honors recognized five individuals and one organization for their unique contributions to Israeli society and its image abroad. An advisory committee that included former Supreme Court President Meir Shamgar and former President Yitzchak Navon, chose Steinsaltz “for his unique and extraordinary contribution to Jewish culture and education.”

Steinsaltz, who changed his last name in 1991 to Even-Israel at the suggestion of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, is best known for his exhaustive commentaries on the Talmud and the Tanya, the foundational work of Chabad-Lubavitch philosophy penned by the First Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, in 1798.

“I am old enough to know that people are no less important than ideas,” said Peres. “The world has learned to say thank you and the time has come for us as well to thank great people who have served as examples for the younger generation, so that we might pass on the message that every person can be as great as his deeds and his ideas.”

Each medallion, which was designed by artist Yossi Matityahu, is crowned Hebrew words from a verse in the First Book of Samuel: “from his shoulders and upward.”