Rashi : biography

1040-2-22 – 1105-7-13

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 Bet din, Rabbi Zerach ben Abraham, Rashi assumed the court’s leadership and answered hundreds of halakhic queries. 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. Most scholars and a Jewish oral tradition contend that he was a vintner.http://www.winealign.com/wines/6875-Rashi-Vineyards-Joyvin-White-Kpmhttp://www.myjewishlearning.com/texts/Bible/Torah/Commentaries/Rashi.shtmlMaurice Liber, Rashi, trans. Adele Szold (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1906), p 56; Irving Agus, The Heroic Age of Franco-German Jewry (New York: Yeshiva University Press, 1969), 173; Israel S. Elfenbein, "Rashi in His Responsa," in Rashi, His Teachings and Personality, ed. Simon Federbusch (New York: Cultural Division of the World Jewish Congress, 1958), p 67; Salo W. Baron, "Rashi and the Community of Troyes," in Rashi Anniversary Volume, ed. H. L. Ginsberg (New York: American Academy for Jewish Research, 1941), p 60. "Rashi was a vintner who grew grapes and sold wine." The only reason given for the centuries old tradition that he was a vintner, being not true is that the soil in all of Troyes, is not optimal for wine growing grapes, claimed by the research of Rabbi Haym Solevetchik. Earlier references such as a reference to an actual seal from his vineyard Oxford Bodleian Ms. Oppenheim 276, p. 35a, cited by Grossman, The Early Sages of France, 132; 135, n. 45. are said not to prove he sold wine just fermented his grapes for his own use.

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".


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.Grossman, Avraham. Pious and Rebellious: Jewish Women in Medieval Europe. Brandeis University Press, 2004.)