Rashi : biography

1040-2-22 – 1105-7-13

Influence in non-Jewish circles

Rashi not only influenced traditional Jewish learning but also influenced non-Jewish circles. His commentaries on the Bible circulated in many different communities especially his commentaries on the Pentateuch. In the 12th-17th centuries, Rashi’s influence spread from French and German provinces to Spain and the east. He had a tremendous influence on Christian scholars. The French monk Nicolas de Lyre of Manjacoria, who was known as the "ape of Rashi",Skolnik, Fred, and Michael Berenbaum. "Rashi." Encyclopaedia Judaica. 2nd ed. Vol. 17. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA in Association with the Keter Pub. House, 2007. was dependent on Rashi when writing the ‘Postillae Perpetuate’ on the Bible. He believed that Rashi’s commentaries were the "official repository of Rabbinical tradition". and significant to understanding the Bible. De Lyre also had great influence on Martin Luther. Rashi’s commentaries became significant to humanists at this time who studied grammar and exegesis. Christian Hebraists studied Rashi’s commentaries as important interpretations "authorized by the Synagogue".

Rashi’s influence grew the most in the 15th century; from the 17th century onwards, Rashi commentaries were translated into many other languages. Rashi’s commentary on the Pentateuch was known as the first printed Hebrew work. Many of his works were translated into English by M. Rosenbaum and A.M. Silbermann in London from 1929-1934. Although Rashi had an influence on communities outside of Judaism, his lack of connection to science prevented him from entering the general domain and he remained more popular among the Jewish community.

Criticism of Rashi

Although Rashi’s interpretations were widely respected, there are many who criticize his work. After the 12th century, criticism on Rashi’s commentaries became common on Jewish works such as the Talmud. The criticisms mainly dealt with difficult passages. Generally Rashi provides the “pshat” or literal meaning of Jewish texts, while his disciples known as the Tosafot, criticized his work and gave more interpretative descriptions of the texts. The Tosafot’s commentaries can be found in Jewish texts opposite Rashi’s commentary. The Tosafot added comments and criticism in places were Rashi had not added comments. The Tosafot went beyond the passage itself in search of arguments, parallels, and distinctions that could be drawn out. This addition to Jewish texts was seen as causing a “major cultural product” Bloomberg, Jon. The Jewish World in the Modern Age. Jersey City, NJ: KTAV Pub. House, 2004. 69. which became an important part of Torah study."Tosafot." JewishEncyclopedia.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2013. .