Monday, January 12, 2015

History of the Masorah: Early Rishonim of Ashkenaz, Part II

Rav Leibowitz

Note: This post has been incorporated into a pamphlet on the Early Rishonim.  It can be purchased on Amazon by clicking here.  

R. Shlomo b. Yitzchak (Rashi, d. 1105)

Rashi was from France, but at a young age travelled to Germany to learn in the Yeshivos headed by students of R. Gershom and R. Eliezer haGadol.[1]  After his yeshiva studies, Rashi returned to France and opened a yeshiva in Troyes, a town situated in the Champagne region - approximately 100 miles southeast of Paris. 

An entire Torah community sprouted from Rashi’s return to France.  Rashi had three daughters, who all married great scholars.  His sons and grandsons, along with Rashi’s students, were some of the most illustrious Rabbinic scholars and leaders of the Torah community in the following century.[2]

Rashi’s wrote a monumental Talmud commentary that made the Gemara fully accessible for the first time.  He explained every difficult word, provided necessary background information, and most importantly, he filled in the logical steps from a discussion that were often absent from the actual text. 

Unlike earlier works that paraphrased the Talmudic discussion, Rashi’s commentary utilized the “dibbur hamaschil” format.  This format ensured that the Talmud student would always need the actual text of the Talmud.  With the earlier paraphrasing format, it was possible for a Talmud student to follow the talmudic discussion without consulting the actual text of the Talmud.  However, with Rashi’s format the student was unable to forgo the text.  He had to study the actual Talmud with the commentary of Rashi.  This approach likely contributed to the commentary’s popularity, even with the most advanced students.[3]   

It is important to realize that Rashi’s commentary did not emerge from a vacuum, nor did it reflect Rashi alone.  Rather, it was largely based on the teachings Rashi learned in Germany and it reflects the rich Talmud tradition of Ashkenaz.[4]
Rashi’s commentary on the Talmud revolutionized Torah learning, and rapidly spread to all corners of the Torah world.  It quickly became the dominant commentary in the Torah world, eclipsing all earlier works, even those in Sefardic lands (eg. The commentary of R. Chananel).[5]

 The Crusades

Towards the end of Rashi’s life, the Crusade of 1096 ravaged the Rhineland, decimating the major Ashkenazic communities of Germany.  Yet, France was spared destruction, and continued to grow under the leadership of Rashi’s yeshiva and family.  Nonetheless, Torah did survive in Germany, but largely because young students came to France to learn in Rashi’s academy.[6]

[1] In Worms, Rashi studied under R. Yaacov b. Yakar, who he calls “Mori HaZaken,”and R. Yitzchak haLevi.  Then Rashi went to Mainz and studied under R. Yitzchak b. Yehudah
[2] Rashi’s daughter Yocheved married, R. Meir.  Like his father in law, R. Meir also established a yeshiva in France.  He is quoted occasionally in the printed Tosafos and his writings are the first to be referred to as “Tosafos” (see Sefer HaYashar 252).  The children of R. Meir and Yocheved included Rashbam, R. Tam, and R. Yitzchak (Rivam).  Rashi’s daughter Miriam married R. Yehudah ben Nasan (Rivan).  He is the author of “Rashi” on tractate Nazir and tractate Makkos (after 19b).  He is also quoted in the printed Tosafos on at least 10 tractates.   One of Rashi’s most illustrious students was R. Simcha of Vitry (d.1105).  He is the author of the Machzor Vitri, a collection of pesakim and teshuvos from Rashi and other great Ashkenazi Rabbonim.
[3] Because Rashi’s commentary was a learning aid, people often added to it in accordance with what would help them read the text.  This led to many variant versions of Rashi’s commentary.  In addition, it is reported that Rashi wrote and rewrote his commentary many times.  This also led to variant texts.  (The first reason for variant texts mentioned here, which reflects transmission errors, is generally called “lower criticism.”  The second, which is due to actual authorship changes, is called “higher criticism”)
[4] Similarly, one should realize that the content of Rashi’s Torah commentary is largely based on Chazal and not Rashi’s own creations.
[5] Rashi Script – “Rashi Script” was not from Rashi, but was a later idea of the early printers in the 15th century.  The purpose of the script was to differentiate between the text of the Talmud and and that of Rashi.
[6] One examples of this phenomenon is R. Yitchak b. Asher (Rivah, d. 1133) (Note: There we two people names R. Yitzchak b. Asher, one the grandson of the other.  We are discussing the older Rivah.).  Rivah was Rosh Yeshiva in Speyers, but likely studied in his youth with Rashi in Troyes (Note Tosafos Niddah 15b).   The Rivah wrote a Tosefos-style commentary on many tractates, and he was the first German whose works were refers to as Tosefos.  Indeed, many Reishonim refer to him as בעל התוספותThe Tosafist, and the Shibolei HaLeket calls him המורה, indicating that he was considered the father of the Tosafist movement.  He is quoted often in the printed Tosafos by his acronym ריב"א 

No comments:

Post a Comment