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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

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< Q3.17 TOC Q3.19 >

Question 3.18:
What is Rashi's Commentary on the Talmud?

Answer:

Rabbi Solomon ben Isaac (or: Shlomo Yitzhaki) is known by the acronym "Rashi". Rashi lived from 1040 to 1105 in Troyes, France.

[In the www.scjfaq.org version, there is a picture of a Talmud Page to Illustrate This]In the Talmud, Rashi's Commentary is always situated towards the middle of the opened book display; i.e. on the side of the page closest to the binding. The semi-cursive font in which the commentaries are printed is often referred to as "Rashi script." This does not mean that Rashi himself used such a script, only that the printers standardly employ it for commentaries. And Rashi's were the commentaries par excellence to both the Bible and the Talmud. Rashi's Commentary, which covers almost the whole of the Babylonian Talmud, has been printed in every version of the Talmud since the first Italian printings.

Rashi's commentary provides a full and adequate explanation of the words, and of the logical structure of each Talmudic passage. Unlike some other commentaries, Rashi does not paraphrase or exclude any part of the text, but carefully elucidates the whole of the text. Rashi also exerted a decisive influence on establishing the correct text of the Talmud. He compared different manuscripts and determined the readings that should be preferred.

Rashi's commentary does not exist for every tractate of the Babylonian Talmud, and a few of the printed commentaries attributed to him were composed by others. In some instances, the text indicates that Rashi died before completing the tractate, and that it was completed by a student. This is true of the tractate Makkot, the concluding portions of which were composed by his son-in-law Rabbi Judah ben Nathan. It is also true of tractate Bava Batra finished (in a much wordier and detailed style) by his grandson, Rabbi Samuel ben Meir (Rashbam), one of the prominent contributors to the Tosafot. It is probably a sign of the success of Rashi's achievement that no subsequent scholar, until Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz in the late 20th century, tried to compose another comprehensive explanatory commentary.


The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

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