Bookstore Glossary Library Links News Publications Timeline Virtual Israel Experience
Anti-Semitism Biography History Holocaust Israel Israel Education Myths & Facts Politics Religion Travel US & Israel Vital Stats Women
donate subscribe Contact About Home


RASHI (Solomon ben Isaac; 1040–1105), leading commentator on the Bible and Talmud.

His Life

Rashi was born at Troyes, France. (See Chart: Rashi Family).His mother was the sister of the liturgical writer, *Simeon b. Isaac. His father was a scholar whom Rashi quoted in his writings (Av. Zar. 75a). Few facts are known about his early life, although many legends are told about this period. A legend tells that his father cast a precious gem into the sea rather than surrender it to Christians who desired it for idolatrous purposes. A heavenly voice then foretold the birth of a son who would enlighten the world with his wisdom. It is also related that his mother was imperiled in a narrow street during her pregnancy. She pressed against a wall which formed a niche to rescue her.

Troyes was then the capital city of Champagne which attracted merchants from many countries. Rashi learned about different currency standards, banking, and trade. He knew of soldering, engraving, weaving figures into material, and the embroidering of silk with gold. He also learned much about agriculture and husbandry. After his initial education in Troyes, Rashi was attracted to the great academies of Mainz and Worms where he studied after his marriage. His main teachers were *Jacob b. Yakar and *Isaac b. Judah at Mainz, and *Isaac b. Eleazar ha-Levi at Worms. At about the age of 25, Rashi returned to Troyes. He maintained close relations with his teachers, occasionally returning to the academies to discuss unclear talmudic texts with them.

Rashi's return to Troyes was notable, since, due to his influence, henceforth the schools of Champagne and northern France were destined to rival and finally supplant those of the Rhenish provinces. Around 1070, he founded a school which attracted many pupils and became even more important after the death of his own teachers. His most gifted pupils were his relatives, *Simḥah b. Samuel of Vitry, Shemaiah, *Judah b. Abraham, Joseph b. Judah, and *Jacob b. Samson. Nothing is known about Rashi's wife. Although the couple had no sons, they are generally believed to have had three daughters, all of whom married prominent scholars. One of them, Jochebed, married R. *Meir b. Samuel who attended the Mainz academy with Rashi. Four sons were born to Jochebed and Meir and they all became famous scholars: *Samuel (Rashbam), *Isaac


(Ribam), *Jacob, popularly known as Rabbenu Tam, and *Solomon (the actual birth order is unclear, although Jacob was certainly younger than Samuel). They all belonged to the outstanding group of French scholars of the following generation who founded the school of *tosafot. Another daughter, Miriam, was married to *Judah b. Nathan, whose commentary to the end of Makkot is included in all editions of the Talmud (19b–24b). This couple also had a learned son, Yom Tov, and a daughter, from whom *Dulcea, the wife of R. Eleazar of Worms, was descended. A third daughter, Rachel, was known as Belle Assez. Her marriage to a certain Eliezer (Jocelyn or Vasselin in the vernacular) ended in divorce.

Rashi's last years were aggrieved by the massacres committed at the outset of the First Crusade (1095–96), in which he lost relatives and friends. Tradition relates that he foretold the defeat of the expedition of Godfrey of Bouillon, correctly predicting that Godfrey would return to his native city with only three horses remaining from his entire massive army. It is only a legendary tradition that during this period Rashi transferred his school to Worms; there the house called his bet ha-midrash, which was located next to the city's synagogue, is a construction of the 16th century. He is reported to have died while writing the word "pure" in his commentary to Makkot, (19b) on 29 Tammuz. His burial place is not known.


A. Marx, in: Rashi Anniversary Volume (1941), 9–30; A. Owen, Rashi, his Life and Times (1952); H. Hailperin, Rashi and his World (1957); M.W. Glenn, in: Rashi, his Teachings and Personality, ed. by S. Federbush (1958), 131–55; S.A. Poznański, Mavoal Ḥakhmei Ẓarefat Mefareshei ha-Mikra, in: idem (ed.), Perush al Yeḥezkel u-Terei Asar le-Rabbi Eliezer mi-Belganẓy, introd. (1913), xiii–xxii (extensive bibl. in xiii n. 2); Sonne, in: HUCA, 15 (1940), Heb. pt. 37–56; M. Liber, Rashi (Eng., 1906); E.M. Lipschuetz, R. Shelomo Yiẓḥaki (1912); J.L. Maimon (Fishman) (ed.), Sefer Rashi (19401, 19562); (American Academy for Jewish Research), Rashi Anniversary Volume (1941); M. Waxman, in: S. Federbush (ed.). Rashi, his Teaching and Personality (1958), 9–47; J. Bloch, ibid., 49–61; H. Englander, Rashi's View of the Weak ע״ע and פ״ן Roots, in: HUCA, 7 (1930), 399–437; idem, Grammatical Elements and Terminology in Rashi's Biblical Commentaries, in ibid., 11 (1936), 367–89; 12–13 (1937–38), 505–521; 14 (1939), 387–429; N. Šapira, Die grammatische Terminologie des Solomon be Isaak (Raschi) (1930?); J. Pereira-Mendoza, Rashi as Philologist (1940); Ḥ. Yalon, in: Sefer Rashi (1956), 515–22; Urbach, ibid., 322–65; I. Schapiro in: Bitzaron, 2 (1940), 426–37 (published separately with additions, same year); D.S. Blondheim, in: REJ, 91 (1931); Epstein, in: Tarbiz, 4 (1933), 189–92; Shunami, Bibl. 755–757; J. Fraenkel, "Rashi's Methodology in his Exegesis of the Babylonian Talmud" (Ph.D. thesis, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, 1969); S.N. Blumenfeld, in: S. Noveck (ed.), Great Jewish Personalities in Ancient and Medieval Times (1959), 233–52; H. Hailperin, Rashi and the Christian Scholars (1963); Y. Avineri, Heikhal Rashi (4 vols. 1940–60). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: I. Berger, "Rashi be-Aggadah ha-Am," in: S. Federbush (ed.), Rashi: Torato ve-Ishiyyuto (1958); A. Grossman, Pious and Rebellious (Heb. 2001, Eng. 2004); E. Shereshevsky, Rashi: The Man and His World (1982).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.