RASHI – acronym for “Rabbi Shlomo ben Yitzchak.” Born in Troyes, in France, in the eleventh century, and educated in Germany, he was, without doubt, the greatest commentator on the Written Law as well as on the Oral Law, and is studied universally in both areas by experts and beginners alike.
In his commentary on the Talmud, he takes students “by the hand,” and leads them through simple or complex material, written in a largely unfamiliar language, and organized in a way that assumes that students are familiar with it all before they start, and makes the material clear. In “Chumash,” the Five Books of Moses, or the Written Law, RASHI’s genius is, if possible, even more evident. He ingeniously blends Midrashim, the comments of his own teachers, and his own profound insights in a manner which sheds light on the ‘pshat,’ the plain meaning, of the holy text.
RASHI accomplished all this during the Period of the Crusades, when life was extremely dangerous for the Jew; yet, in his works, one hears none of the violence of the mobs, but only the sweet sounds of the Torah.
RASHI had only daughters, who were great scholars in their own right, but also were married to men of greatness, and had children known as the “Baalei Tosafot,” “Those who Extended,” individual scholars who stood on the giant shoulders of their grandfather, and queried and examined, extended and sometimes argued with his explanations of the Talmud, in the immortal tradition of Jewish scholarship.