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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

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Question 3.19:
What is the Tosafot?


The Tosafot are commentary on the Talmud by various Rabbis shortly after the time of Rashi; Many of these rabbis were descendants of Rashi himself.

The word "Tosafot" translates as "additions" or "supplements." This means that their authors and editors saw their work as supplements to Rashi's basic commentary. Some have seen the Tosafot as an addition to the Talmud itself. It carries on the Talmud's own methods of dialectical argument and debate. The Tosafot are printed on the outer margin of the page; i.e., when looking at an opened book you will see the Tosafot in the columns closest to the edges of the pages, farthest from the binding. They appear in Rashi script, with the headings of each discussion in large square letters. The Tosafot that have been printed in the standard Talmud editions are merely an accidental selection from a vast literature that circulated in manuscript. Some of the other Tosafot compendia have been published as separate works.

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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© (c) 1993-2002 Daniel P. Faigin <>