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Rashi (February 22, 1040-July 17, 1105) is the acronym of Rabbi Solomon ben Isaac (or: Shlomo Yitzhaki). He is one of Judaism's classic meforshim (Bible and Talmud commentators), and wrote the first comprehensive commentaries on the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible) and Talmud.
Rashi lived in Troyes, a city in northern France, where he was a vintner. He was reputedly descended from the Davidic line with lineage to the royal house of King David. His studying and commentaries were done in his spare time.
Rashi's commentary on the Tanakh is very thorough. His commentary helps to understand both the plain meaning and the interpretation of the medieval rabbis. It is commonly used in advanced study of the Tanakh. There are a small number of commentaries that bear his name that were not authored by him, but by his students.
Rashi also wrote the first comprehensive commentary of almost the entire Talmud. His commentary attempts to provides a full 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 which readings should be preferred. His work became such a standard that it is included in all printed versions of the Talmud.
Rashi's Talmud 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. Daniel Bomberg, a Christian printer from Venice, introduced "Rashi script" in his publication of Rashi's commentary on the Tanakh in 1517. Rashi's commentary, which covers almost all of the Babylonian Talmud, has been printed in every version of the Talmud since the first Italian printings.
We do not possess Rashi's commentary 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 and of 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. Some say that his commentary on Nedarim was composed by one of his daughters.
Rashi had no sons, only three daughters, Joheved, Miriam and Rachel, all of whom married scholars. Joheved married Meir ben Samuel, Miriam married Judah ben Nathan (see above), and Rachel married (and divorced) Eliezer ben Shemiah. Joheved and Meir's four sons included the Tosafot, Rashbam and Rabbeinu Tam, and one of their daughters, Hannah, wrote a responsum explaining the ritual and blessing for the Shabbat lights.
Rashi's commentaries are of interest to secular scholars because he tended to translate unfamilar words into the spoken French of his day. As such, his commentaries offer an interesting insight into the vocabulary and pronunciation of medieval French.He was also a genius.
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