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Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki - Rashi

Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki - Rashi

(4800-4865)

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Every little child in 'Cheder' knows the name. How much all the little Jewish children look forward to the happy day when they will begin to learn Chumash with Rashi! The very script of Rashi is fascinating! Once Chumash with the Rashi commentary is begun, the children know they have reached a new milestone on their wonderful and enchanting road to scholarship and wisdom.

But who was Rashi? When did he live? Where did he live? How did he live? These are some of the questions that many children ask themselves when they begin to learn Rashi, and these are some of the questions that I am going to answer here.

"Rashi" is not the full name of that great man. It is merely a combination of the three Hebrew letters, Resh, Shin, Yud, which stand for Rabenu Shlomo Yitzchaki - our Rabbi Solomon, the son of Yitzchak.

Rabenu Solomon Yitzchaki, or Rashi as he is generally referred to, was born almost exactly 900 years ago, in the year 4800. He lived 65 years. Rashi is said to be a descendant of King David.

Rashi was born in the town of Troyes in France; some people believe he was born in Worms. His father Yitzchak was a great scholar, but very poor. He made a meager living from the sale of wine.

A wonderful story is told about the birth of Rashi: His father, Rabbi Yitzchak once found a rare diamond. "Now, there would be no more poverty," he thought and went to sell the precious stone to the local jeweler. The jeweler hadn't enough money to pay for such a large diamond, and suggested to the bishop to buy it. Now the bishop had been looking for such a diamond for he wanted to put it on his cross. He offered a huge amount of money for it. When Rabbi Yitzchak heard for what purpose the bishop wanted the stone, he refused to sell it. He knew, however, that if he did not sell the stone, it would be taken from him forcibly, and so he threw it into the sea. A Heavenly Voice then resounded: "For this great sacrifice you will be blessed with a son that will outshine all the precious stones in the world, and the light of his Torah will shine for ever." The following year a son was born to him, and he called him Solomon, saying, may G-d grant him wisdom like unto King Solomon.

Rashi was still a youngster when he left his home town and went to Worms and other towns that were known for their great Torah scholars. With great zeal Rashi learnt Torah and Talmud, and after some eight years of ardent study, he returned to his home town again. He was then about 25 years of age, but he continued to study on his own. Soon he became known as a very great scholar, and thousands of students and scholars flocked to him, to learn from him. Rashi, was elected Rabbi of his town Troyes, but he did not accept any wages, and made his living from the sale of wine, like his father used to do.

Rashi began to write his famous commentary on the Tanach and Talmud at an early age. The Torah was very difficult to understand properly, and the Talmud was even more difficult. Rashi decided to write a commentary in simple language that would make it easy for every one to learn and understand the Torah. But Rashi was very modest, and even after he had become famous far and wide, he hesitated to come out into the open with his commentary. He wanted to make sure that it would be favorably received. So what did he do? He wrote his commentaries on slips of parchment and set out on a two years' journey, visiting the various Torah academies of those days. He went 'incognito,' never disclosing his identity.

Rashi came to a Yeshivah and sat down to listen to the lecture of the Dean of the Yeshivah. There came a difficult passage in the Talmud which the Rabbi struggled to explain to his students; but did not succeed very well. When Rashi was left alone, he took the slip with his commentary, in which that passage of the Talmud was explained simply and clearly, and put it into the Gemora of the head of the academy. On the following morning, when the Rabbi opened his Gemora he found a mysterious slip of parchment in which the passage of the Talmud was so clearly and simply explained that he was amazed. He told his students about it, and they all decided it must have been sent from heaven. Rashi listened to their praises of his commentary and was very happy to know how useful it was to the students, but he did not say that it was his. And so Rashi went on visiting various academies of the Torah in various lands and cities, and everywhere he planted his slips of commentaries secretly. The way these slips were received, made Rashi realize more and more how needed they were, and he continued to write his commentaries on the entire Chumash, Prophets, and all the tractates of the vast 'Sea of the Talmud.' These "mysterious" slips of parchment were copied and widely circulated throughout all the academies of the Torah, but nobody knew who the author was.

Once Rashi was discovered planting a slip of his commentary in the usual manner, and the secret was out. Immediately he was acclaimed by all as the great author of that wonderful commentary. Rashi's name became known throughout the world. In every Yeshivah, in every Torah school, Rashi's commentary was used by young and old, and he literally opened the eyes of all the Torah scholars. No other Rabbi or commentator gained so much popularity as Rashi. There are very few Chumashim or Gemoras printed without Rashi, and the study of the Torah and Talmud is now almost unthinkable without the aid of Rashi's explanation.

Rashi had no sons, but he had several daughters, some say two, some say three.

His sons-in-law and grandchildren were famous scholars and commentators of the Torah and Talmud. One of his grandsons was Rabenu Tam, another one - Rashbam (Rabbi Samuel ben Meir). Rashi's grandsons and disciples were the authors of the 'Tosefoth' known to all students of the Talmud.

In the last years of his life Rashi lived to see troubled times. It was the time of the crusaders, when thousands of Jews were massacred by wild and mad mobs that participated in the crusades, and wiped out whole communities on their way. Rashi's heart was broken and full of sorrow about the plight of his unfortunate brethren, and he wrote Piyutim, some of which have become part of our prayers (especially in the 'Selichoth').

At his old age Rashi's health failed him. He was weak and ailing and could no longer write. His daughter then acted as his secretary, and he dictated to her his answers to the many queries that used to come in to him from the greatest scholars of his time.

On the 29th day of Tammuz, in the year 4865, Rashi passed away. Rashi, however, continues to live in his works which are studied by all the students of the Talmud Torahs and Yeshivoths, and by the adult scholars too.

For hundreds of years there stood the ancient Beth Hamidrash in Worms in which Rashi used to learn. In it stood the ancient stone chair upon which he used to sit. Many people would come and look with awe upon these ancient relics. But in the beginning of the month of Teveth in the year 5698 (1937) some vandals set it on fire and destroyed it.

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Discussion (10)
February 3, 2012
Rashi
I have been studying Rashi for the past several months. What a wealth of knowledge. Rashi has 'opened' new doors in my studies.
John Nocera
Calcoun, LA
September 15, 2009
May his merit protect us Amen (II)
To the proud parent in L.A.:
May G-d bless you with much, more Yiddishe nachas - YOU are keeping the legacy of Rashi & all of Klal Yisrael alive & vibrant.
MENDY MERMELSTEIN
BROOKLYN, NY
September 13, 2009
Rashi
Elie Wiesel says he is a decendent of Rashi. How does he know this?
Herb Schwarz
Santa Ana, CA
July 21, 2009
Comment re boys
To the one who wrote <<the author states that boys are excited to learn rashi. what are girls? chopped liver?>> May I suggest that instead of displaying anger and an agenda, you visit one of those schools in which girls are actually taught Jewish scholarship. First of all you will not make accusations of withholding Jewish scholarship from girls; that only happens in the more liberal Jewish schools where Jewish scholarship is withheld from boys as well as girls. Next, you'll find out that there is specific track of scholarship for girls' schools and a different track for boys' schools. These tracks reflect the type of learning, and then meaningful living they are most likely to encounter in the future. These girls eventually become more schooled in Jewish learning-including Rashi-than most liberal rabbis. They are also 10 times more likely to enjoy grandparenthood, which is the greatest heaven--and fulfillment--on this earth, than Jewish girls who do not receive such an education.
Proud to learn Rashi with my daughters
LA, USA
June 4, 2009
Boys
the author states that boys are excited to learn rashi. what are girls? chopped liver? (or perhaps they should be relegated to liver chopping in the kitchen for their entire lives?)
the feminist brother
June 4, 2009
RE: LIVING FROM SALES OF WINE
It seems that this piece of information is quite widespread. In fact, it is mentioned in the Jewish Encyclopedia article about Rashi.
Menachem Posner for Chabad.org
June 3, 2009
LIVING FROM SALES OF WINE
Would you be so kind and let me know from where do you take this information i am searching this a long time . THANKS
GRUNHUT
ANTWERP, BELGIUM
August 1, 2008
Faith and Sacrifice....
We humble at the biography of great Torah Scholars, nevertheless let us not forget their beginnings. Rashi's father, the Reb Yitzhaki, was a monumental pillar of faith and strength. Imagine you find a huge rock of a diamond, you show it to your wife and, let's say you're poor, she tells you to go pawn it for some cash, you retuen home after some time, and there is no diamond and no money. I don't know about you, but my wife would beat me over the head with our Katubah, daily. The strength to live in the Word of Hashem......Rashi's merit belongs to his Parents.
annonymous.
Newtown, Pa
July 25, 2006
Rashi's Yahrzteit, Tammuz 29, 5766
May his merit protect us, and all of Israel, Amen.
Rashi withstood the tribulations of his times, as did many of the the great scholars from that era forward, to become the Great Teacher of the ages.
Another lesson, set by example, of the power of determination to succeed in Torah despite immeasurable deprivation & suffering. This to teach us that the study of Torah is paramount, & takes precedence above everything.
Mendy Mermelstein
Brooklyn, NY
August 1, 2005
The Rashi Shul and Yeshiva (one building complex) has been destroyed twice, in the crusades and rebuilt afterwards, then again during the Third Reich, and rebuilt after the war. Nowadays the building is open every day so people can visit it or daven there. The Jewish community in Worms, which existed uninterrupted until the Nazis, is now being rebuilt, but as far as I know regular services in the shul are only on chagim so far.
Anonymous
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