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Rashi

16th-century depiction of Rashi
Born February 22, 1040(1040-02-22)
Troyes, France
Died July 13, 1105 (aged 65)
Troyes, France
Resting place Troyes
Nationality French
Religion Orthodox Judaism
For the astrological concept, see Rāshi (Jyotiṣa).

Shlomo Yitzhaki, better known by the acronym Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki), (February 22, 1040 – July 13, 1105), was a medieval French rabbi famed as the author of the first comprehensive commentary on the Talmud, as well as a comprehensive commentary on the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible). He is considered the "father" of all commentaries that followed on the Talmud (i.e., the Baalei Tosafot) and the Tanakh (i.e., Ramban, Ibn Ezra, Ohr HaChaim, et al.).[1][2]

Acclaimed for his ability to present the basic meaning of the text in a concise yet lucid fashion, Rashi appeals to both learned scholars and beginning students, and his works remain a centerpiece of contemporary Jewish study. His commentary on the Talmud, which covers nearly all of the Babylonian Talmud (a total of 30 tractates), has been included in every edition of the Talmud since its first printing by Daniel Bomberg in the 1520s. His commentary on Tanakh — especially his commentary on the Chumash ("Five Books of Moses") — is an indispensable aid to students of all levels. The latter commentary alone serves as the basis for more than 300 "supercommentaries" which analyze Rashi's choice of language and citations, penned by some of the greatest names in rabbinic literature.[2]

Rashi's surname Yitzhaki derives from his father's name, Yitzhak. The acronym is sometimes also fancifully expanded as Rabban Shel Yisrael (Teacher of Israel), or as Rabbenu SheYichyeh (Our Rabbi, may he live).

Contents

Biography

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Birth and early life

Rashi was an only child born at Troyes, Champagne, in northern France. His mother's brother was Simon the Elder, Rabbi of Mainz.[3]. Shimon was a disciple of Rabbeinu Gershom Meor HaGolah,[4] who died that same year. On his father's side, Rashi has been claimed to be a 33rd-generation descendant of Yochanan Hasandlar, who was a fourth-generation descendant of Gamaliel the Elder, who was reputedly descended from the royal house of King David. In his voluminous writings, Rashi himself made no such claim at all. The main early rabbinical source about his ancestry, Responsum No. 29 by Solomon Luria, makes no such claim either.[5][6]

Legends

His fame later made him the subject of many legends. One tradition contends that his parents were childless for many years. Rashi's father, Yitzhak, a poor vintner, once found a precious jewel and was approached by non-Jews who wished to buy it to adorn their idol. Yitzhak agreed to travel with them to their land, but en route, he cast the gem into the sea. Afterwards he was visited by either a Bath Kol (Heavenly voice) or the prophet Elijah, who told him that he would be rewarded with the birth of a noble son “who would illuminate the world with his Torah knowledge.”

Legend also states that the couple moved to Worms while Rashi's mother was expecting. As she walked down one of the narrow streets in the Jewish quarter, she was imperiled by two oncoming carriages. She turned and pressed herself against a wall, which opened to receive her. This miraculous niche is still visible in the wall of the Rashi Shul.[7]

Yeshiva studies

According to tradition, Rashi was first brought to learn Torah by his father on Shavuot day at the age of five. His father was his main Torah teacher until his death when Rashi was still a youth. At the age of 17 he married and soon after went to learn in the yeshiva of Rabbi Yaakov ben Yakar in Worms, returning to his wife three times yearly, for the Days of Awe, Passover and Shavuot. When Rabbi Yaakov died in 1064, Rashi continued learning in Worms for another year in the yeshiva of his relative, Rabbi Isaac ben Eliezer Halevi, who was also chief rabbi of Worms. Then he moved to Mainz, where he studied under another of his relatives, Rabbi Isaac ben Judah, the rabbinic head of Mainz and one of the leading sages of the Lorraine region straddling France and Germany.

Rashi's teachers were students of Rabbeinu Gershom and Rabbi Eliezer Hagadol, leading Talmudists of the previous generation. From his teachers, Rashi imbibed the oral traditions pertaining to the Talmud as they had been passed down for centuries, as well as an understanding of the Talmud's unique logic and form of argument. Rashi took concise, copious notes from what he learned in yeshiva, incorporating this material in his commentaries.

Rosh yeshiva

He returned to Troyes at the age of 25, after which time his mother died, and he was asked to join the Troyes Beth din (rabbinical court). He also began answering halakhic questions. Upon the death of the head of the Beth din, Rabbi Zerach ben Abraham, Rashi assumed the court's leadership and answered hundreds of halakhic queries.

Exterior of Rashi's Synagogue, Worms

In around 1070 he founded a yeshiva which attracted many disciples. It is thought by some that Rashi earned his living as a vintner since Rashi shows an extensive knowledge of its utensils and process, but there is no evidence for this.[8] Although there are many legends about his travels, Rashi likely never went further than from the Seine to the Rhine; the utmost limit of his travels were the yeshivas of Lorraine.

In 1096, the People's Crusade swept through the Lorraine, murdering 12,000 Jews and uprooting whole communities. Among those murdered in Worms were the three sons of Rabbi Isaac ben Eliezer Halevi, Rashi's teacher. Rashi wrote several Selichot (penitential poems) mourning the slaughter and the destruction of the region's great yeshivot. Seven of Rashi's Selichot still exist, including Adonai Elohei Hatz'vaot", which is recited on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, and Az Terem Nimtehu, which is recited on the Fast of Gedalia.

Death and burial site

Rashi died on July 13, 1105 (Tammuz 29, 4865) aged 65. He was buried in Troyes. The approximate location of the cemetery in which he was buried was recorded in Seder Hadoros, but over time the location of the cemetery was forgotten. A number of years ago, a Sorbonne professor discovered an ancient map depicting the site of the cemetery, which now lay under an open square in the city of Troyes. After this discovery, French Jews erected a large monument in the center of the square—a large, black and white globe featuring a prominent Hebrew letter, Shin (ש) (presumably for "Shlomo", Rashi's name). The granite base of the monument is engraved: Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki — Commentator and Guide.

In 2005, Yisroel Meir Gabbai erected an additional plaque at this site marking the square as a burial ground. The plaque reads: "The place you are standing on is the cemetery of the town of Troyes. Many Rishonim are buried here, among them Rabbi Shlomo, known as Rashi the holy, may his merit protect us".[9]

Descendants

Rashi had no sons, but his three daughters, Miriam, Yocheved, and Rachel, all married Talmudic scholars. Legends exist that Rashi's daughters put on tefillin. While some women in medieval Ashkenaz did wear tefillin, there is no evidence that Rashi's daughters did so.[10]

  • Rashi's oldest daughter, Miriam, married Judah ben Nathan, who completed the commentary on Talmud Makkot which Rashi was working on when he died.[11] Their daughter Alvina was a learned woman whose customs served as the basis for later halakhic decisions. Their son Yom Tov later moved to Paris and headed a yeshiva there, along with his brothers Shimshon and Eliezer.
  • Yocheved married Meir ben Shmuel; their four sons were: Shmuel (Rashbam) (b. 1080), Yitzchak (Rivam) (b. 1090), Jacob (Rabbeinu Tam) (b. 1100), and Shlomo the Grammarian, who were among the most prolific of the Baalei Tosafos, leading rabbinic authorities who wrote critical and explanatory glosses on the Talmud which appear opposite Rashi's commentary on every page of the Talmud. Yocheved's daughter, Chanah, was a teacher of laws and customs relevant to women.
  • Rashi's youngest daughter, Rachel, married (and divorced) Eliezer ben Shemiah.

Works

Commentary on the Tanakh

A modern translation of Rashi's commentary on the Chumash, published by Artscroll

Rashi's commentary on the Tanakh — and especially his commentary on the Chumash — is the essential companion for any study of the Talmud at any level. Drawing on the breadth of Midrashic, Talmudic and Aggadic literature (including literature that is no longer extant), as well as his knowledge of grammar, halakhah, and how things work, Rashi clarifies the "simple" meaning of the text so that a bright child of five could understand it.[12] At the same time, his commentary forms the foundation for some of the most profound legal analysis and mystical discourses that came after it. Scholars debate why Rashi chose a particular Midrash to illustrate a point, or why he used certain words and phrases and not others. Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi wrote that “Rashi’s commentary on Torah is the ‘wine of Torah’. It opens the heart and uncovers one’s essential love and fear of G-d."[13]

Scholars believe that Rashi's commentary on the Torah grew out of the lectures he gave to his students in his yeshiva, and evolved with the questions and answers they raised on it. Rashi only completed this commentary in the last years of his life. It was immediately accepted as authoritative by all Jewish communities, Ashkenazi and Sephardi alike.

The first dated Hebrew printed book was Rashi's commentary on the Chumash, printed by Abraham ben Garton in Reggio di Calabria, Italy, 18 February 1475. (This version did not include the text of the Chumash itself.)

Rashi wrote commentaries on all the books of Tanakh except Chronicles I & II. Scholars believe that the commentary which appears under Rashi's name in those books was compiled by the students of Rabbi Saadiah of the Rhine, who incorporated material from Rashi's yeshiva. Rashi's students, Rabbi Shemaya and Rabbi Yosef, edited the final commentary on the Torah; some of their own notes and additions also made their way into the version we have today.

Today, tens of thousands of men, women and children study "Chumash with Rashi" as they review the Torah portion to be read in synagogue on the upcoming Shabbat. According to halakha, a man may even study the Rashi on each Torah verse in fulfillment of the requirement to review the Parsha twice with Targum (which normally refers to Targum Onkelos) This practice is called in Hebrew: "Shnaim Mikrah V'echad Targum". Since its publication, Rashi's commentary on the Torah is standard in almost all Chumashim produced within the Orthodox Jewish community.

Commentary on the Talmud

An early printing of the Talmud (Ta'anit 9b); Rashi's commentary is at the bottom of the right column, continuing for a few lines into the left column.

Rashi wrote the first comprehensive commentary on the Talmud. Rashi's commentary, drawing on his knowledge of the entire contents of the Talmud, attempts to provide a full explanation of the words and of the logical structure of each Talmudic passage. Unlike other commentators, Rashi does not paraphrase or exclude any part of the text, but elucidates phrase by phrase. Often he provides punctuation in the unpunctuated text, explaining, for example, "This is a question"; "He says this in surprise," "He repeats this in agreement," etc.

As in his commentary on the Tanakh, Rashi frequently illustrates the meaning of the text using analogies to the professions, crafts, and sports of his day. He also translates difficult Hebrew or Aramaic words into the spoken French language of his day, giving latter-day scholars a window into the vocabulary and pronunciation of Old French.

Rashi exerted a decisive influence on establishing the correct text of the Talmud. Up to and including his age, texts of each Talmudic tractate were copied by hand and circulated in yeshivas. Errors often crept in: sometimes a copyist would switch words around, and other times incorporate a student's marginal notes into the main text. Because of the large number of merchant-scholars who came from throughout the Jewish world to attend the great fairs in Troyes, Rashi was able to compare different manuscripts and readings in Tosefta, Jerusalem Talmud, Midrash, Targum, and the writings of the Geonim, and determine which readings should be preferred. However, in his humility, he deferred to scholars who disagreed with him. For example, in Chulin 4a, he comments about a phrase, "We do not read this. But as for those who do, this is the explanation…"

Rashi's commentary, which covers nearly all of the Babylonian Talmud (a total of 30 tractates), has been included in every version of the Talmud since its first printing in the fifteenth century. It is always situated towards the middle of the opened book display; i.e., on the side of the page closest to the binding.

Some of the other printed commentaries which are attributed to Rashi were composed by others, primarily his students. In some commentaries, the text indicates that Rashi died before completing the tractate, and that it was completed by a student. This is true of the tractate Makkot, the concluding portions of which were composed by his son-in-law, Rabbi Judah ben Nathan, and of the tractate Bava Batra, finished (in a more detailed style) by his grandson, the Rashbam. There is a legend that the commentary on Nedarim, which is clearly not his, was actually composed by his daughters.

Responsa

About 300 of Rashi's responsa and halakhic decisions are extant. These responsa were copied and preserved by his students. Siddur Rashi, compiled by an unknown student, also contains Rashi's responsa on prayer. Other compilations include Sefer Hapardes, edited by Rabbi Shemayah, Rashi's student, and Sefer Haoraah, prepared by Rabbi Nathan Hamachiri.

Legacy

Raschihaus, Jewish Museum, Worms, Germany.

Rashi's commentary on the Talmud continues to be a key basis for contemporary rabbinic scholarship and interpretation. Without Rashi's commentary, the Talmud would have remained a closed book. With it, any student who has been introduced to its study by a teacher can continue learning on his own, deciphering its language and meaning with the aid of Rashi.

The Schottenstein Edition interlinear translation of the Talmud bases its English-language commentary primarily on Rashi, and describes his continuing importance as follows:

It has been our policy throughout the Schottenstein Edition of the Talmud to give Rashi's interpretation as the primary explanation of the Gemara. Since it is not possible in a work of this nature to do justice to all of the Rishonim, we have chosen to follow the commentary most learned by people, and the one studied first by virtually all Torah scholars. In this we have followed the ways of our teachers and the Torah masters of the last nine hundred years, who have assigned a pride of place to Rashi's commentary and made it a point of departure for all other commentaries.[14]

In 2006, the Jewish National and University Library at Hebrew University put on an exhibit commemorating the 900th anniversary of Rashi's death (2005), showcasing rare items from the library collection written by Rashi, as well as various works by others concerning Rashi.

Supercommentaries

Voluminous supercommentaries have been published on Rashi's commentaries on the Bible and Talmud, including Gur Aryeh by Rabbi Judah Loew (the Maharal), Sefer ha-Mizrachi by Rabbi Elijah Mizrachi (the Re'em), and Yeri'ot Shlomo by Rabbi Solomon Luria (the Maharshal). Almost all rabbinic literature published since the Middle Ages discusses Rashi, either using his view as supporting evidence or debating against it.

Rashi's explanations of the Chumash were also cited extensively in Postillae Perpetuae by Nicholas de Lyra (1292-1340), a French Franciscan, earning that author the name Simius Solomonis ("the ape of Solomon (Shlomo)"). De Lyra's book was consulted in preparing the important early (1611) English translation of the Bible (the King James version).[citation needed]

Of note in recent times is Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson's "novel interpretation" of Rashi's commentary, which was delivered in a series of public talks that began in 1964 and continued for over 25 years.[15] These talks are printed mostly in Likkutei Sichos, and compiled in Hebrew in the 5 volume set of Biurim LePirush Rashi. Schneerson formulated many basic principles for use in interpretation of Rashi's commentary.[16]

"Rashi script"

The complete Hebrew alphabet in Rashi script [right to left].

The semi-cursive typeface in which Rashi's commentaries are printed both in the Talmud and Tanakh is often referred to as "Rashi script." This does not mean that Rashi himself used such a script: the typeface is based on a 15th century Sephardic semi-cursive hand. What would be called "Rashi script" was employed by early Hebrew typographers such as the Soncino family and Daniel Bomberg, a Christian printer in Venice, in their editions of commented texts (such as the Mikraot Gedolot and the Talmud, in which Rashi's commentaries prominently figure) to distinguish the rabbinic commentary from the primary text proper, for which a square typeface was used.

References

  1. ^ Ramban writes in the introduction to his commentary on Deuteronomy: "I will place for the illumination of my face the lights of a pure candelabrum — the commentaries of Rabbi Sholomo (Rashi), crown of beauty and glory ... in Scripture, Mishnah, and Talmud, to him belongs the rights of the firstborn!" quoted at Biography of Ramban, The Jewish Theological Seminary
  2. ^ a b Miller, Chaim. Rashi's Method of Biblical Commentary. chabad.org
  3. ^ "Index to Articles on Rabbinic Genealogy in Avotaynu: The International Review of Jewish Genealogy". Avotaynu: The International Review of Jewish Genealogy. http://www.jewishgen.org/rabbinic/infofiles/avotaynu.htm. Retrieved 2008-06-11. 
  4. ^ See Rashi's comments in Shabbat 85b.
  5. ^ Hurwitz, Simon (1938). The Responsa of Solomon Luria. New York, New York. pp. 146–151. 
  6. ^ Einsiedler, David (1992). "Can We Prove Descent from King David?". Avotaynu: The International Review of Jewish Genealogy VIII (3(Fall)): 29. http://www.jewishgen.org/Rabbinic/journal/descent.htm. Retrieved 2008-06-11. 
  7. ^ Liber, Maurice. Rashi, Kessinger Publishing, 2004. pg. 18-19. ISBN 1419143964
  8. ^ Mayer I. Gruber. How Did Rashi Make a Living?. http://seforim.blogspot.com/2007/08/mayer-i-gruber-how-did-rashi-make.html. 
  9. ^ Y. Friedman (2005-07-25). "The Discovery of the Resting Places of Rashi and the Baalei Hatosfos". Dei'ah Vedibur. http://chareidi.shemayisrael.com/archives5765/mattos/MTS65features.htm. 
  10. ^ Grossman, Avraham. Pious and Rebellious: Jewish Women in Medieval Europe. Brandeis University Press, 2004.)
  11. ^ Makkot 19b: "Our master's body was pure, and his soul departed in purity, and he did not explain any more; from here on is the language of his student Rabbi Yehudah ben Nathan."
  12. ^ Mordechai Menashe Laufer. "רבן של ישראל (Hebrew)". http://www.chabad.org.il/Magazines/Article.asp?ArticleID=3822&CategoryID=957. 
  13. ^ Rashi's Method of Biblical Commentary
  14. ^ The Schottenstein Edition of the Talmud:Talmud Bavli:Tractate Nedarim. Mesorah Publications Limited, 2000 (General Introduction, unpaginated). (Note: The Schottenstein Edition editors explained further that they chose Ran's commentary for Tractate Nedarim as an exception, based on a belief that the commentary attributed to Rashi for this tractate was not written by Rashi)
  15. ^ Chaim Miller, Rashi's Method of Biblical Commentary, Chabad.org
  16. ^ Klalei Rashi - The Principles of Rashi

External links

References

Resources


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Rashi

Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo ben Yitzchak, 1040-1105) was a French Rabbi. His commentaries on the Bible and Talmud are still widely read today.

Sourced

Commentary on Genesis

  • The flavour of a fish which comes out of the sea at Acre is not similar to the flavour of a fish which comes out of the sea in Spain.
    • Commenting on Gen. 1:10; why does it say "seas", not "sea" - because the nature of the sea varies from place to place.
  • We learn from here the humility of the Holy One, Blessed is He. Since man is in the likeness of the angels, and they would be jealous of him, for this reason, He consulted them.
    • Commenting on Gen. 1:26; why does it say "Let us make man"?
  • They were not aware of the way of modesty, to distinguish between good and bad. Even though there had been put in man knowledge to be able to call the animals names, there had not been put in him the drive towards evil.
    • Commenting on Gen. 2:25; they were both naked and they were not ashamed.
  • Even a blind man realises when he is naked. So why does it say "And they realised that they were naked"? They had one commandment and were now naked of it.
    • Commenting on Gen. 3:7
  • God knew where he was, but he asked so as to start a conversation with Adam and avoid startling him too much to reply.
    • Commenting on Gen. 3:9; why should an omniscient God ask "Where are you?"

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

RASHI (1040-1105), Jewish scholar. Rabbi Solomon IzxAQ1 (son of Isaac), usually cited as Rashi from the initials of those words, was born at Troyes in 1040 and died in the same town in 1105. Legends concerning him are many. Isaac's wife, shortly before the birth of their famous son, was walking one day down a narrow street in Worms, when two vehicles moving in opposite directions seemed about to crush her. As she leant hopelessly against a wall, it miraculously fell inwards to make a niche for her. So with his education. Legend sends the student to southern France, and even on a tour of the world. At an inn in the Orient he cured a sick monk, who later on, as bishop of Olmiitz, returned the kindness by saving the Jews from massacre. In fact, Rashi never went farther than from the Seine to the Rhine; the utmost limit of his travels were the academies of Lorraine. Situated between France and Germany, Lorraine was more French than German, and French was the common language of Jew and Christian. This is shown by the glosses in Rashi's works, almost invariably in French. He seems to have passed the decade beginning with 1055 in Worms, where the niche referred to above is still shown. Within this, it is said, Rashi was wont to teach. A small edifice on the east of the synagogue is called the "Rashi Chapel," and the "Rashi Chair," raised on three steps in the niche, is one of the objects of the pious admiration of pilgrims. At Worms Rashi worked under Jacob ben Yaqar, and at Mainz under Isaac ben Judah, perhaps combining at the same time the functions of teacher and student. Besides the oral tuition that he received, the medieval schools habitually kept the notes of former teachers. From these Rashi learned much, and probably he incorporated some of these notes in his own works. In the middle ages there was a communism in learning, but if Rashi used some of the stones quarried and drafted by others, it was to his genius that the finished edifice was due.

Rashi was twenty-five years of age when he returned to Troyes, which town thenceforward eclipsed the cities of Lorraine and became the recognized centre of Jewish learning. Rashi acted as rabbi and judge, but received no salary. Not till the 14th century were Jewish rabbis paid officials. Rashi and his family worked in the vines of Troyes (in the Champagne); in his letters he describes the structure of the winepresses. His learning and character raised him to a position of high respect among the Jewries of Europe, though Spain and the East were long outside the range of his influence. As was said of him soon after his death: "His lips were the seat of wisdom, and thanks to him the Law, which he examined and interpreted, has come to life again." His posterity included several famous names, those of his grandchildren. Rashi had no sons, but his three daughters were women of culture, and two of the sons of Jochebed (see Rashbam and TAM), as well as others of his descendants, carried on the family tradition for learning, adding lustre to Rashi's fame. The latter part of Rashi's life was saddened by the incidents connected with the first Crusade. Massacres occurred in the Rhinelands. According to legend, Rashi and Godfrey of Bouillon - of the foremost leaders of the Crusade - were intimate friends. Rashi died peacefully in Troyes in 1105.

Rashi was the most conspicuous medieval representative of the Jewish spirit. A century later Maimonides was to give a new turn to Jewish thought, by the assimilation of Aristotelianism with Mosaism, but Rashi was a traditionalist pure and simple. He was in no sense a philosopher, but he exemplified in his person and in his works the stored up wisdom of the Synagogue. Yet through all that he wrote there runs a vein of originality. Besides minor works, such as a recension of the Prayer-Book (Siddur), the Pardes and ha-Orah, Rashi wrote two great commentaries on which his fame securely rests. These were the commentaries on the whole of the Hebrew Bible and on about thirty treatises of the Talmud. His commentary on the Pentateuch, in particular, has been printed in hundreds of editions; it is still to Jews the most beloved of all commentaries on the Mosaic books. More than a hundred supercommentaries have been written on it. Rashi unites homily with grammatical exegesis in a manner which explains the charm of the commentary. His influence in Christian circles was great, especially because of the use made of the commentary by Nicolaus de Lyra, who in his turn was one of the main sources of Luther's version. Even more important was Rashi's commentary on the Talmud, which became so acknowledged as the definitive interpretation that Rashi is cited simply under the epithet of "the Commentator." It is no exaggeration to assert that the modern world owes its power to understand the Talmud to Rashi. In this field the "Commentator" is supreme. He practically edited the text of the Talmud besides explaining it, and the Talmud is never printed without Rashi's commentary on the margin. An important feature of Rashi's commentaries is the frequency of French translations of words. These glosses (lo`azim) have now been in part edited from the manuscripts of the late Arsêne Darmesteter.

BIBLIOGRAPHY.-M. Liber, Rashi (1906), published as a memorial of Rashi on the 800th anniversary of his death. Rashi's commentary on the Bible has been translated into Latin by Breithaupt (1710-1714); and into German (Pentateuch) by Dukes (1833-38) and others. The foundation of recent investigation into Rashi's life is Zunz's Salomon b. Isaac (1823), to which I. H. Weiss added much in his (Hebrew) biography (in Bet Talmud ii., Nos. 2 -10. See also Graetz, History of the Jews (Engl. trans., vol. iii. ch. ix.). A critical edition of Rashi's Pentateuch commentary was published by A Berliner (2nd ed., 1905). (I. A.)


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French commentator on Bible and Talmud; born at Troyes in 1040; died there July 13, 1105. His fame has made him the subject of many legends. The name of Yarḥi, applied to him as early as the sixteenth century, originated in a confusion of Solomon bar Isaac with one Solomon de Lunel, and a further error caused the town of Lunel to be regarded as Rashi's birthplace. In reality he was a native of Troyes, where, a century ago, butcher-shops were still shown which were built on the site of his dwelling and which flies were said never to enter. R. Simon the Elder was his maternal uncle; but a genealogy invented at a later date assigned this relationship to the tanna Johanan ha-Sandalar. According to tradition, Rashi's father carried his religious zeal so far that he cast into the sea a gem that was much coveted by Christians, whereupon he heard a mysterious voice which foretold him the birth of a noble son. Legend states also that his mother, imperiled in one of the narrow streets of Worms during her pregnancy, pressed against a wall, which opened to receive her. This miraculous niche is still shown there, as well as the bench from which Rashi taught. As a matter of fact, however, Rashi merely studied at Worms for a time, his first teacher being Jacob b. Yaḳar, of whom he speaks with great veneration. After Jacob's death his place was successively filled by Isaac ben Eleazar ha-Levi, or Segan Lewiyah, and by Rashi's relative Isaac b. Judah, the head of the school of Mayence, a school rendered illustrious through R. Gershom b. Judah (the "Light of the Exile"), who may be regarded as Rashi's precursor, although he was never his teacher.

Tradition to the contrary notwithstanding, Rashi never made the extensive journey through Europe, Asia and Africa which have been attributed to him, and accounts of which have been embellished with details of a meeting with Maimonides and of Rashi's marriage at Prague. About the age of twenty-five he seems to have left his masters, with whom he always maintained most friendly relations. His return to Troyes was epoch-making, for thenceforth the schools of Champagne and northern France were destined to rival, and shortly to supplant, those of the Rhenish provinces. Rashi most likely exercisedthe functions of rabbi in his native city, but he seems to have depended for support chiefly on his vineyards and the manufacture of wine. About 1070 he founded a school which attracted many disciples and which became still more important after the death of his own preceptors. His most noted pupils were Simḥah of Vitry and Shemaiah, who were his kinsmen, and Judah b. Abraham, Joseph b. Judah, and Jacob b. Samson. He had no sons, but three daughters, of whom Miriam and Jochebed married two of his pupils, Judah b. Nathan and Meïr b. Samuel; so that his family became, in a sense, the diffusers of rabbinical learning in France.

Rashi's training bore fruit in his commentaries, possibly begun while he was still in Lorraine. His last years were saddened by the massacres which took place at the outset of the first Crusade (1095-1096), in which he lost relatives and friends. One legend connects his name with that of Godfrey de Bouillon, to whom he is said to have foretold the defeat of his expedition; while another tradition attributes to him a journey to Barcelona, in the latter part of his life, to seek a man indicated to him in a dream as destined to be his comrade in paradise. Another legend further states that he died and was buried in Prague.


Rashi's commentary on the Pentateuch was first printed without the text at Reggio in 1475 (the first dated Hebrew book printed); five years later it was reprinted in square characters. Its first appearance with the text was at Bologna in 1482, the commentary being given in the margin; this was the first commentary so printed. Since that date there have been published a great many editions of the Pentateuch with Rashi's commentary only. At different periods other parts of the Old Testament appeared with his commentary: the Five Scrolls (Bologna, c. 1484); the Five Scrolls, Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah (Naples, 1487); Job, Psalms, Proverbs, and Daniel (Salonica, 1515); the Pentateuch, the Five Scrolls, Ezra, and Chronicles (Venice, 1517). The editio princeps of Rashi on the whole of the Old Testament was called "Miḳra'ot Gedolot" (ib. 1525), in which, however, of Proverbs and the books of Job and Daniel the text alone was given. Owing to its importance, Rashi's commentary was translated into Latin by Christian scholars of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, some parts several times. The most complete Latin translation is that of John Frederick Breithaupt, which appeared at Gotha: on the Pentateuch, 1710; on the Prophets, the twelve Minor Prophets, Job, and Psalms, 1713; on the Earlier Prophets and the Hagiographa, 1714. The whole commentary on the Pentateuch was translated into German by L. Dukes (Prague, 1838), and parts of it were translated into Judæo-German by Judah Löb Bresch in his edition of the Pentateuch (Cremona, 1560), and likewise by Jacob b. Isaac in his "Sefer ha-Maggid" (Prague, 1576).

No other commentaries have been the subject of so many supercommentaries as those of Rashi. The best known of these supercommentaries are: the "bi'urim" of Israel Isserlein (Venice, 1519); the "Sefer ha-Mizraḥi" of Elijah Mizraḥi (ib. 1527); the "Keli Yaḳar" of Solomon Ephraim of Lenchitza (Lublin, 1602); and finally the most popular one,the "Sifte Ḥakamim" of Shabbethai Bass (appearing in many Pentateuch editions by the side of Rashi's commentary.)

Lacunæ in Talmud Commentaries.

Rashi's commentary on the Talmud covers the Mishnah (only in those treatises where there is Gemara) and the Gemara. In the various editions Rashi is assumed to include all the treatises of the Talmud, with the exception of Makkot from 19b to end, Baba Batra from 29b to end, and Nedarim from 22b to end. Modern scholars, however, have shown that the commentaries on the following treatises do not belong to Rashi: Keritot and Me'ilah (Zunz, in his "Zeitschrift," p. 368), Mo'ed Ḳaṭan (Reifmann, in "Monatsschrift," iii. 229, who credits the commentary on this treatise to Gershon Me'or ha-Golah). Nazir and Nedarim (allotted by Reifmann, l.c., to Isaiah di Trani), and Ta'anit (Azulai, "Shem ha-Gedolim," i. 168). Rashi's commentary on the treatise Berakot was printed with the text at Soncino in 1483.

The editio princeps of the whole of the Talmud, with Rashi, is that of Venice, 1520-22. Rashi's mishnaic commentary was printed with the Basel 1580 (the order Ṭohorot) and the Leghorn 1654 (all six orders) editions. A commentary on Pirḳe Abot was printed, with the text, at Mantua in 1560 and was attributed to Rashi; the critics, however, doubt that the commentary is his work. Rashi's Talmudic commentary was soon afterward the object of severe criticism by the tosafists, who designated it under the term "ḳonṭres" (pamphlet). But in the seventeenth century Joshua Höschel b. Joseph, in his "Maginne Shelomoh" (Amsterdam, 1715), a work covering several treatises, defended Rashi against the attacks of the tosafists.

Other works attributed to Rashi are: commentaries on Genesis Rabbah (Venice, 1568; not Rashi's according to Jacob Emden in his "'Eẓ Abot," Preface) and Exodus Rabbah (Vatican MS.): "Sefer ha-Pardes," a collection of halakot and decisions (a compendium, entitled "Liḳḳuṭe ha-Pardes" [Venice, 1519], was made about 1220 by Samuel of Bamberg); "Siddur Rashi," mentioned in Tos. Pes. 114 (MS. owned by Luzzatto); "Dine Niḳḳur ha-Basar" (Mantua, 1560), laws of porging. Several decisions found in the "Sefer ha-Pardes" are separately quoted as Rashi's. Rashi's responsum to the rabbis of Auxerre was published by Geiger in his "Melo Chofnajim" (p. 33, Berlin, 1840). Two other responsa are to be found in Judah b. Asher's "Zikron Yehudah" (pp. 50a, 52b, Berlin, 1846), and twenty-eight were published by Baer Goldberg in his "Ḥefes Maṭmonim" (Berlin, 1845). Rashi was also a liturgist; three seliḥot of his, beginning respectively: "Adonai Elohe ha-Ẓeba'ot," "Az ṭerem nimtaḥu," and "Tannot ẓarot lo nukal," are found in the seliḥot editions; his hymn on the unity of God ("Shir 'al aḥdut habore") has not yet been published.

His Commentaries.

Rashi's attainments appear the more remarkable when it is remembered that he confined himself to Jewish fields of learning. Legend notwithstanding, he knew neither foreign languages, except French and a few words of German, nor secular science, save something of the practical arts. But in Biblical and rabbinical literature his learning was both extensive and reliable, and his numerous quotations show that he was familiar with nearly all the Hebrew and Aramaic works of his predecessors. Rashi's celebrity rests upon his commentaries on the Bible and the Talmud, this vast task of elucidation being entirely his own, except for a few books in the one and certain treatises in the other. They are not consecutive commentaries, but detached glosses on difficult terms or phrases. Their primary quality is perfect clearness: Rashi's explanations always seem adequate. He manifests also a remarkable facility in the elucidation of obscure or disputed points, recurring, whenever he finds it necessary, to schemata. His language is not only clear, but precise, taking into consideration the actual context and the probable meaning and reproducing every varying shade of thought and signification. Yet it is never diffuse; its terseness is universally conceded. A single word frequently suffices to summarize a remark or anticipate a question.

Rashi sometimes translates words and entire propositions into French, these passages, written in Hebrew characters and forming an integral part of the text, being called "la'azim." Rashi was not the first to employ them, but he greatly extended their use by adopting them. His commentaries contain 3,157 la'azim, forming a vocabulary of 2,000 words, a certain number of which are contained in later Hebrew-French glossaries. These glosses are of value not only as expressions of the author's thought, but as providing material for the reconstruction of Old French, both phonologically and lexicographically. It is not difficult to retransliterate them into French, as they are transcribed according to a definite system, despite frequent corruptions by the copyists. A large number of manuscripts were read and much material bearing on the la'azim was collected by Arsène Darmesteter, but the work was interrupted by his death.

The Biblical commentaries are based on the Targumim and the Masorah, which Rashi follows, although without servile imitation. He knew and used the almost contemporary writings of Moses ha-Darshan of Narbonne and of Menahem b. Ḥelbo, of whom the former confined himself to the literal meaning of the text while the latter conceded much to the Haggadah. The two principal sources from which Rashi derived his exegesis were the Talmudicmidrashicmidrashic literature and the hermeneutic processes which it employs—the "peshaṭ" and the "derash." Rashi, unfortunately, attributed too great importance to the second process, often at the expense of the first, although he intended it, as he states on several occasions, only to elucidate the simple, obvious meaning of the text. To his immediate followers he entrusted the honorable task of completing the reaction against the tendencies of his age, for his own scientific education was not without deficiencies. His grammatical knowledge was obviously inadequate, although he was acquainted with the works of the Judæo-Spanish grammarians Menahem b. Saruḳ and Dunash b. Labraṭ, and had gained a thorough knowledge of Hebrew. Rashi's qualifications for his task, and even his faults, have made his commentaries on the Bible, particularly on the Pentateuch, especially suitable for general reading and edification, and have won for him the epithet of "Parshandatha" (Esth. ix. 7), taken by some writers as "parshan data" (= "interpreter of the Law").

On the Talmud.

Rashi's commentaries on the Talmud are more original and more solid in tone than those on the Scriptures. Some were revised by the author himself, while others were written down by his pupils. Here, as in his Biblical exegesis, he followed certain models, among them the commentaries of his teachers, of which he often availed himself, although he sometimes refuted them. Like them, and sometimes in opposition to them, Rashi began by preparing a rigid recension of the Talmud, which has become the received text, and which is the most natural and most logical, even though not invariably authentic. To explain this text he endeavored to elucidate the whole, with special reference to the development and discussions of the Gemara, striving to explain the context, grammar, and etymology, as well as obscure words, and to decide the meaning and import of each opinion advanced. He was seldom superficial, but studied the context thoroughly, considering every possible meaning, while avoiding distortion or artificiality. He frequently availed himself of parallel passages in the Talmud itself, or of other productions of Talmudic literature; and when perplexed he would acknowledge it without hesitation. A list of general rules to which he conforms and which may be found in his Biblical commentaries presents the rudiments of an introduction to the Bible, resembling the collection of principles formulated by him in his commentaries on the Talmud and constituting an admirable Talmudic methodology. These commentaries contain, more over, a mass of valuable data regarding students of the Talmud, and the history, manners, and customs of the times in which they lived. Whether they were derived from written sources, oral tradition, or imagination, their consistency and ingenuity are praised by scholars, who frequently draw upon them for material.

As a rule, Rashi confined himself strictly to commentatorial activity, although he frequently deemed it necessary to indicate what was the halakah, the definite solution of a problem in cases in which such a solution was the subject of controversy or doubt, or could not readily be discerned amid the mass of Talmudic controversy, or was indispensable for a clear comprehension either of a text under consideration or of passages relating to it. In every case Rashi's authority carried a weight equal to that of the leading "poseḳim," and it would have had still more influence if his rulings and his responsa, which his disciples carefully noted—as they did also even his slightest acts and gestures—had been united in one collection, as was the case with the Spanish and German Talmudists, instead of being scattered through a number of compilations. The most important of these collections are: the "Sefer ha-Pardes," often attributed to Rashi himself, but in reality composed of two others, one of which was probably made by Rashi's pupil Shemaiah; the "Sefer ha-Orah," also compiled from two other works, the first containing fragments which apparently date from the time of Rashi's followers; the "Sefer Issur we-Hetter"; the "Maḥzor Vitry," a more homogeneous work (with additions by Isaac b. Dorbolo), compiled by Simḥah of Vitry, a pupil of Rashi, who introduced into it, in the order of the events of the ecclesiastical year, his teacher's laws of jurisprudence and his responsa. The first and fourth of these works were published respectively at Constantinople in 1805 and at Berlin in 1892, and editions of the remaining two have been projected by Buber.

The responsa of Rashi throw a flood of light on the character of both their author and his period. The chief subjects of discussion are the wine of non-Jews and the relations between Jews and baptized Jews (possibly an echo of the times of the Crusades). In his solutions of these Rashi shows sound judgment and much mildness. No high degree of praise, however, can beawarded to several liturgical poems attributed to Rashi, for they rank no higher than the bulk of the class to which they belong, although their style is smooth and flowing and they breathe a spirit of sadness and a sincere and tender love of God.

His Influence.

If the merit of a work be proportionate to the scientific activity which it evokes, the literature to which it gives rise, and the influence which it exerts, few books can surpass those of Rashi. His writings circulated with great rapidity, and his commentary on the Talmud greatly extended the knowledge of the subject, thus increasing the number of Talmudic schools in France, which soon came to be of great importance, especially those at Troyes, Ramerupt, Dampierre, Paris, and Sens. His two sons-in-law, Judah b. Nathan (RIBaN) and Meïr b. Samuel, and especially the latter's three sons. Samuel(RaSHBaM), Judah, and Jacob (R. Tam), were the first of a succession of tosafists who were closely identified in work and methods with Rashi. The achievements of their leader in Biblical exegesis, a favorite study of almost all of the tosafists, were equally lasting and productive, even though later commentaries, written in imitation of Rashi's, at times surpass their model. Samuel b. Meïr, Joseph Ḳara, Joseph Bekor Shor, and Eliezer of Beaugency are the best known but by no means the only representatives of this brilliant French school, which has never won the recognition which its originality, simplicity, and boldness merit.

The fame of Rashi soon spread beyond the boundaries of northern France and the German provinces of the Rhine. Shortly after his death he was known not only in Provence, but in Spain and even in the East. The Spanish exegetes, among them Abraham ibn Ezra and Naḥmanides, and such Talmudists as Zerahiah Gerondi, recognized his authority, although at first they frequently combatted his opinions. In France itself, however, repeated expulsions by successive kings and the burning of Hebrew books, as at Paris in 1240, scattered the Jews and destroyed their institutions of learning. Throughout these persecutions the Bible and the Talmud, with the commentaries of Rashi, were their inseparable companions, and were often their supreme as well as their only solace, and the chief bond of their religious unity.

The French Jews carried their literature with them and diffused it among foreign communities, in which its popularity steadily increased. Rashi's commentaries on the Talmud became the text-book for rabbis and students, and his commentary on the Pentateuch the common study of the people. The popularity of the works extended to their author, and innumerable legends were woven about his name, while illustrious families claimed descent from him. This universal esteem is attested by the numerous works of which his commentaries were the subject, among them being the supercommentaries of Elijah Mizraḥi and Shabbethai Bass, which have passed through numerous editions and copies, while Rashi's commentary on the Pentateuch is the first Hebrew work of which the date of publication is known (Reggio, Feb., 1475).

Outside Influence.

Rashi's influence was not confined to Jewish circles. Thus the French monk Nicolas de Lyre (d. 1340), the author of the "Postillæ Perpetuæ" on the Bible, was largely dependent on the commentaries of Rashi, which he regarded as an official repository of rabbinical tradition, although his explanations occasionally differed from theirs. Nicolas in his turn exercised a powerful influence on Martin Luther, whose, exegesis thus owes much, in the last analysis, to the Jewish scholar of Troyes. In the same century the humanists took up the study of grammar and exegesis, then long neglected among the Jews, and these Christian Hebraists studied the commentaries of Rashi as interpretations authorized by the Synagogue. Partial translations of his commentaries on the Bible were published; and at length a complete version of the whole, based on the manuscripts, was published by Breithaupt at Gotha (1710-13).

Among the Jews themselves, in the course of the eighteenth century, such Talmudists as Joel Sirkes, Solomon Luria, and Samuel Edels brought to the study of Rashi both profound learning and critical acumen; but it was Rapoport and Weiss, by their extensive use of his writings, who created the scientific study of the Talmud. Mendelssohn and his school of bi'urists revived the exegesis of the peshaṭ and employed Rashi's commentaries constantly, even attempting an interpretation of the French glosses.

The name of Rashi is inseparably connected with Jewish learning. In 1823 Zunz wrote his biography; Heidenheim sought to vindicate him, even when he was wrong; Luzzatto praised him enthusiastically; Weiss devoted a monograph to him which decided many problems; while Geiger turned his attention especially to the school of tosafists of which Rashi was the founder, and Berliner published a critical edition of Rashi's commentary on the Pentateuch.

Rashi's lack of scientific method, unfortunately, prevents his occupying the rank in the domain of exegesis merited by his other qualities. Among the Jews, however, his reputation has suffered little, for while it is true that he was merely a commentator, the works on which he wrote were the Bible and the Talmud, and his commentaries carry a weight and authority which have rendered them inseparable from the text. Even if his work is inferior in creative power to some productions of Jewish literature, it has exercised a far wider influence than any one of them. His is one of the master-minds of rabbinical literature, on which he has left the imprint of his predominant characteristics—terseness and clearness. His work is popular among all classes of Jews because it is intrinsically Jewish.

Bibliography: Zunz, Salomon b. Isaac, Genannt Raschi, in Zeitschrift für die Wissenschaft des Judenthums, 1823, pp. 277-384 (Hebrew transl., with additional notes, by Bloch, Lemberg, 1840; 2d ed., Warsaw, 1862); idem, S. P.; idem, Literaturgesch.; Weiss, Rabbenu Shelomh bar Yiẓḥaḳ, in Bet-Talmud, ii., Nos. 2-10 (reprinted as part ii. of Toledot Gedole Yisrael, Vienna, 1882); Georges, Le Rabbin Salomon Raschi, in L'Annuaire Administratif . . . du Département de l'Aube, 1868, part ii., pp. 3 et seq.; Clément-Mullet, Documents pour Servir à l' Histoire du Rabbin Salomon, Fils de Isaac, in Mémoires de la Société d'Agriculture . . . du Département de l'Aube, 1855, xix. 143 et seq.; idem, Poésies ou Sélichot Attribuées à Raschi, in Mémoires de la Société Académique de l'Aube, 1856, xx. 131-142; Grätz, Gesch. vi. (Hebr. transl., vol. iv., Warsaw, 1894); Kronberg, Raschi als Exeget, Halle, 1882; Geiger, Nite'e Na'amanin, Berlin, 1847; idem, Parschandata; die Nordfranzösische Exegetenschule, Leipsie, 1855; Lévy, Die Exegese bei den Französischen Israeliten, ib. 1873; Berliner, Raschi, Commentar zum Pentateuch, Introduction, Berlin, 1866; idem, Zur Charakteristik Raschi's, in Kaufmann Gedenkbuch; idem, Zur Gesch, der Raschi-Commentare, 1904; Darmesteter, Reliques Scientifiques, vol. i., Paris, 1890; Weiss, Dor, iv. 321-334; Winter and Wünsche, Jüdische Litteratur, ii. 276 et seq., 458, 462.

This entry includes text from the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.
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