The history of the modern-day Talmud spans a saga across centuries of gathered texts, transcribed wisdom and printed commentaries and insights. It is, in a way, a collaborative effort across space and time, the words and wisdom of rabbis past contributing to newer insights, interpretations and elucidations. A few of our previous kosher vacations across the globe let us visit places where great rabbis and sages lived and worked on their Biblical and Talmudic exegesis, from Iberia to France. One of the most influential commenters of the Talmud was Solomon ben Isaac, also known as Rashi.
From Champagne to Mainz
Rashi was born in 1040, in the town of Troye in the Champagne region of France. He was raised learning practical skills, and would later show interest in Talmudic education. To that end, he went to Mainz and Worms, studying under great thinkers such as Isaac ben Judah. He would return to Troye and set up a yeshiva there.
Rashi’s methods of exegesis was renowned, using concise language to describe the text and provide clarity into their literal meaning, while at the same time providing significant midrashic insights and discourse into how they can be understood. For this reason, he inspired many other scholars and rabbis, including some of his descendants.
Commentary in the Modern Day
Rashi’s Biblical and Talmudic commentary continues to be printed today, his words providing clarity and provoking thoughts and discussions long after his death circa 1105. He did not just write exegesis, but also wrote selihot (penitential hymns) remembering the unjust deaths of friends and loved ones in the First Crusade, along with responsa, which was compiled after his death
Whether you’re relaxing within Kosher resorts or having a steady rest day at home, you can always find ways to link yourself with the work of the past. Rashi’s commentaries have allowed Jewish readers to gain a deeper understanding of the world, inspiring other scholars to take up his torch and illuminate the way for others.