Rashi : biography
Rashi and his family survived the major anti-semitic outbreak when he was 45 years old;http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/15013-worms many of his teachers who were some of Judaism’s greatest Ashkenazi sages and his mentors did not survive. Following the burning of the Yeshivoth in Mainz and Worms by the Crusaders, Rashi started a successful school in Troyes, which lasted for generations (until the second crusade). The Yeshivoth and community Rashi’s teachers argued with in Speyer were also burned down during his lifetime.
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:
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.
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. Simon was a disciple of Rabbeinu Gershom Meor HaGolah,See Rashi’s comments in Shabbat 85b. 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 line 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.
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, Germany 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.Liber, Maurice. , Kessinger Publishing, 2004. pg. 18-19. ISBN 1-4191-4396-4
Rashi Synagogue, Worms]] 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.