Besides being history's most published biblical commentator,
Rashi is a gentle man of exemplary character whose decisions
of law and personal counsel have enormous impact on the
people around him, the generations that follow him, and the
The city of Troyes, where
Rashi lives almost all his life, is situated at the bustling
intersection of two important trade routes leading to Italy
and the Near East. Colourful fairs pass through Troyes every
year and Rashi's exposure to commerce and personalities from
around the world allow him to emerge as one of the true
cosmopolitan figures of his time. A winemaker by trade, a
teacher, a scribe, an author, and a dedicated family man,
like many people, Rashi is more than the sum of his parts.
In an age of illiteracy he
teaches his daughters to read and write both Hebrew and
French. He rules the local Jewish court with an elegant
blend of mercy and jurisprudence, debates politics and
theology with his Christian neighbours, befriends and
confides in the mystical Inkman and leads his community with
an integrity respected by Jew and non-Jew alike.
In his last years, in an
extraordinary confrontational scene, Rashi goes head to head
with the legendary Crusader, Duke Godfrey of Boullion.
Despite disappointment with the violent turn of history,
Rashi manages to defend his people's right to freedom and
spiritual choice. In so doing, he helps them maintain their
self-respect and enables them to continue their
Tamuz 4865) - 1105 SOLOMON BEN ISAAC (Troyes, France)
as Rashi. He had studied under the students of Rabbenu
Gershom and at the age of 25 became Rabbi in Troyes.
Rashi is renowned for his illuminating and succinct
commentaries on the Bible and the Talmud, which are still
considered indispensable by both Jewish and Christian
scholars. Rashi did not hesitate to comment "I don't
understand" on Biblical passages which he found perplexing
and often paraphrased the words in his native French. His
sons-in-law (known as the Tosafists) continued with his
commentaries, further helping to explain difficult portions
of the Talmud. During the First Crusade in 1095, many of
Rashi's relatives and friends perished, and some of his
manuscripts were destroyed or lost.
1100 - 1328 AGE OF THE TOSAFISTS (France)
The name given to the
descendants of Rashi. They added to, and reconciled his
works with seeming contradictions in the Talmud, using many
cross references to similar topics in other sections of the
Talmud. Various schools studied and compiled these works.
Each work was named after the school in which it was
compiled, e.g. Tosafot Averu for the school of Moses
of Evereux, etc.