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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

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Question 3.20:
Who wrote the Tosafot?


The Tosafot were composed by many scholars in different schools throughout the 12th and 13th centuries. They probably originated as students' notes of the discussions that took place in the Talmudic academy [=Yeshivah]. As students moved from one yeshivah to another they would assemble personal lists of the Tosafot of their various teachers. Some of the most prominent contributors to the Tosafot were:

Rabbi Jacob ben Meir (Rabbenu Tam). 1100 - 1171.

Rashi's grandson, lived in the French town of Ramerupt.

Rabbi Samuel ben Meir (The Rashbam). 1080 - 1158.

A grandson of Rashi's and the brother of Rabbenu Tam. In addition to his contributions to the Tosafot, he composed a famous commentary to the Torah that is distinguished by its scholarly objectivity in restricting itself to the plain, contextual meaning of the text without imposing the traditional Rabbinic interpretations.

Rabbi Isaac of Dampierre (The Ri).

A nephew of Rabbenu Tam and the Rashbam, he lived in France during the 12th century; One of the most prolific of the Tosafists.

Rabbi Samson [ben Abraham] of Sens.

He lived in France during the latter 12th and early 13th centuries, and eventually moved to Jerusalem. He was the most important disciple of Rabbi Isaac of Dampierre. In addition to his Tosafot he composed a commentary to the two orders of the Mishnah for which there is no Babylonian Talmud.

Rabbi Meir [ben Barukh] of Rothenburg. 1225 - 1293.

Rabbi Meir made important contributions to Jewish civil law, and his many students diligently collected his customs, responsa and rulings, often comparing them with the material in the important Spanish codes of Jewish law.

Unlike the explanatory commentaries, such as Rashi's, the Tosafot do not attempt to provide a full elucidation of the Talmud text. Rather they focus on particular issues in the Talmud or in Rashi's commentary which they explore in depth. They often propose alternative readings or interpretations to the ones presented by Rashi.

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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