Rashi – R. Shlomo Yitzchaki | רש”י – ר’ שלמה יצחקי (c. 1040-1105, Troyes, northern France) is among the foremost Talmud and Tanach commentators, ushering in the classical period of line commentaries on foundational texts. He studied in the yeshivot of the Rhineland Valeyy (Worms and Mainz), the first centers of Jewish life in medieval Ashkenaz, bringing back with him to France a rich culture of learning. On this foundation, Rashi, his students, and his descendants built a thriving intellectual enterprise that extended the dialectic of the Talmud in commentaries known as Tosafot, literally “additions” (probably intended as “additions to Rashi’s commentary” rather than “additions to the Talmud,” although scholars are in divided on the matter). Rashi’s commentarial efforts on Tanach threaded Midrash locally onto specific verses of the text, incorporating vast swathes of aggada and other traditional knowledge into the narrative. Those who followed developed his method into the Ashkenazi peshat (contextual) school of Bible commentary. They also applied exegetical treatment to the prayerbook, writing many explanations of piyyut. Among Rashi’s influential descendants are his grandsons, from his three, possibly four, daughters, Rashbam and Rabbenu Tam, and the Ri (R. Yitzchak of Dampierre), not including the many scholars and Tosafists who were related to him by marriage.

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