Rashi's Commentaries on the Talmud

The beloved Torah commentator also wrote a much-used commentary on the Talmud.

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Excerpted from the Jewish Encyclopedia (Funk & Wagnall’s 1912).

[Rashi (Shlomo ben Yitzhak) was a] French commentator on Bible and Talmud; born at Troyes in 1040; (he) died there July 13, 1105.  Rashi's commentary on the Talmud covers the Mishnah (only in those treatises where there is Gemara) and the Gemara. In the various editions, Rashi is assumed to include all the treatises of the Talmud, with the exception of Makkot from l9b to [the] end, Baba Batra from 29b to [the] end, and Nedarim from 22b to [the] end. Modern scholars, however, have shown that the commentaries on the following treatises do not belong to Rashi: Keritot and Me'ilah,… Mo'ed Katan,…Nazir and Nedarim, and Ta'anit. 

Rashi's commentary on the treatise Berakhot was printed with the text at Soncino in 1483. The editio princeps of the whole of the Talmud with Rashi, is that of Venice, 1520‑22. Rashi's mishnaic commentary was printed with the Basel 1580 (the order Toharot--purities) and the Leghorn 1654 (all six orders) editions. …Rashi's Talmudic commentary was soon afterward the object of severe criticism by the Tosafists [commentators after Rashi, some of whom were his relative]), who designated it under the term "Kontres" (pamphlet). But in the seventeenth century Joshua Hoschel b. Joseph, in his "Maginne Shelomoh" (Amsterdam, 1715), a work covering several treatises, defended Rashi against the attacks of the Tosafists…

rashi commentatorRashi's commentaries on the Talmud are more original and more solid in tone than those on the Scriptures. Some were revised by the author himself, while others were written down by his pupils. Here, as in his Biblical exegesis, he followed certain models, among them the commentaries of his teachers, of which he often availed himself, although he sometimes refuted them. Like them, and sometimes in opposition to them, Rashi began by preparing a rigid recension of the Talmud, which has become the received text, and which is the most natural and most logical, even though not invariably authentic.

To explain this text, he endeavored to elucidate the whole, with special reference to the development and discussions of the Gemara, striving to explain the context, grammar, and etymology, as well as obscure words, and to decide the meaning and import of each opinion advanced. He was seldom superficial, but studied the context thoroughly, considering every possible meaning, while avoiding distortion or artificiality. He frequently availed himself of parallel passages in the Talmud itself, or of other productions of Talmudic literature; and when perplexed he would acknowledge it without hesitation.

A list of general rules to which he conforms and which may be found in his Biblical commentaries presents the rudiments of an introduction to the Bible, resembling the collection of principles formulated by him in his commentaries on the Talmud and constituting an admirable Talmudic methodology. These commentaries contain, more over, a mass of valuable data regarding students of the Talmud, and the history, manners, and customs of the times in which they lived. Whether they were derived from written sources, oral tradition, or imagination, their consistency and ingenuity are praised by scholars, who frequently draw upon them for material.

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Joseph Jacobs (1854-1916) was Jewish writer, historian, and folklorist. He lived in England until 1900, when he went to the United States to edit a revision of The Jewish Encyclopedia. He was later a teacher at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City and editor of the American Hebrew. His major contributions to Jewish history include Jews of Angevin England (1893), An Inquiry into the Sources of the History of the Jews in Spain (1894), and Jewish Contributions to Civilization (1919), an incomplete fragment. His Story of Geographical Discovery (1899) went through a number of editions. From 1889 to 1900 he edited Folk-Lore, the journal of the Folk-Lore Society. He compiled several collections of fairy tales and edited scholarly editions of Aesop's fables (1889) and the Thousand and One Nights (6 vol., 1896)