The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization


September 27th, 2012

Access Token


Other Formats



To this day, the commentaries on the Bible and Talmud written by the eleventh-century scholar known as Rashi remain unsurpassed. His influence on Jewish thinking was, and still is, significant. His commentary on the Pentateuch was the first Hebrew book to be printed, giving rise to hundreds of supercommentaries. Christian scholars, too, have relied heavily on his explanations of biblical texts.
In this volume Avraham Grossman presents a masterly survey of the social and cultural background to Rashi’s work and pulls together the strands of information available on his life, his personality, his reputation during his lifetime, and his influence as a teacher. He discusses each of his main commentaries in turn, including such aspects as his sources, his interpretative method, his innovations, and his style and language. Attention is also given to his halakhic monographs, responsa, and liturgical poems.
Despite Rashi’s importance as a scholar and the vast literature published about him, two central questions remain essentially unanswered: what was Rashi’s world-view, and was he a conservative or a revolutionary? Professor Grossman considers these points at length, and his in-depth analysis of Rashi’s world-view—particularly his understanding of Jewish uniqueness, Jewish values, and Jewish society—leads to conclusions that are likely to stimulate much debate.


‘Grossman draws heavily from the current Israeli scholarship on Rashi, including his own scholarly works, to present a well-rounded picture of Rashi. It is a work of synthesis; explicating clearly more arcane studies. Gross is a very good teacher, making his arguments clearly and using examples which clarify his own even further. He is especially helpful to explain Rashi’s relationship with the midrashic literature whether in the commentary of the Torah or elsewhere. Recommended for libraries with comprehensive undergraduate programmes and any synagogue library.’
Roger S. Kohn, Association for Jewish Libraries Reviews

‘The leading authority of his generation in this field.’
Marc Saperstein, European Judaism

‘Avraham Grossman, one of the world's foremost scholars of medieval Judaica . . . reads some famous texts very closely in an attempt to make Rashi come to life for twenty-first century readers . . . a tour de force . . . Grossman’s book, just like the works of Rashi, can be read with profit and enjoyment by both scholars and amateurs.’
Martin Lockshin, H-Judaic

‘Arguably the most learned scholar today writing about the life and works of Rashi . . admirable book . . . the scholarly achievements of Avraham Grossman, to which this book attests on every page.’
Ivan G. Marcus, Jewish Review of Books

‘The current volume is largely based on Grossman’s earlier and very extensive work, but he has succeeded not only in abbreviating it for present purposes but also in updating various aspects of his impressive scholarship. The result is a volume that will undoubtedly become the standard work in English, for use as much (perhaps, in truth, even more) by scholars as by non-specialists. There is little here that Grossman has not covered . . . his contribution to the topic goes far beyond the thorough and well-sourced provision of sound data and careful assessment. He is also able to offer fresh insights into Rashi the man, the scholar, the rabbi, and the teacher . .. splendid.’
Stefan C. Reif, Journal of Jewish Studies

‘An amazing volume that gives the reader a thorough understanding of who Rashi was through his many writings... Grossman’s book is an impressive one... very readable, accessible, and fascinating.’
Ben Rothke, Times of Israel


Author Information

Avraham Grossman is a Professor of Jewish History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a member of the Israeli Academy of Sciences. He was awarded the Bialik Prize in 1997 and the Israel Prize in 2003. His research interests focus on the Jewish rabbis and scholars of the early Middle Ages in Ashkenaz and France, Jewish family, and Jewish society.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Cover 1
Half Title2
Title Page 4
Dedication 6
Preface to the Hebrew Edition8
Translator’s Note14
Note on Transliteration16
1. The Social and Cultural Background of Rashi’s Work20
The Jews’ Political, Economic, and Social Status20
The Troyes Community and the Jewish Centre in Champagne21
The Twelfth-Century Renaissance24
The Jews’ Social Ties to their Surroundings26
Jewish–Christian Religious Polemics27
2. A Biographical Sketch29
Rashi’s Life29
Character Traits40
Standing and Fame59
3. Rashi’s Beit Midrash69
Growth of the Beit Midrash69
‘The Great Rabbi’70
Library and Sources85
4. Commentary on the Torah90
The Text of Rashi’s Commentary on the Torah92
Rashi’s Interpretative Method95
Rashi’s Profound Affection for Midrash99
General Characteristics of the Commentary112
5. Commentaries on the Later Books of the Hebrew Bible128
Language, Grammar, and References to Daily Life128
Style of the Commentaries134
General Characteristics of the Commentaries143
6. Commentary on the Talmud150
For Whom Did Rashi Write his Commentary on the Talmud?150
Extent of the Commentary152
Interpretative Characteristics154
Connections with Other Interpretative Traditions157
Versions and Editions of the Commentary158
Changes and Contradictions162
Halakhic Rulings in Rashi’s Commentary on the Talmud164
7. Rulings, Responsa, Liturgical Poems, and Commentaries on Liturgical Poems166
Liturgical Poems176
Commentaries on Liturgical Poems177
8. The Uniqueness of the Jewish People182
Methodological Introduction182
The Election of Israel186
The Land of Israel191
Exile and Redemption206
The Nations of the World215
9. Values225
Torah and Torah Study225
Reasons for the Commandments238
Truth and Humility245
Human Dignity257
Peace and Factionalism262
10. Society269
Community Leaders276
Forced and Voluntary Converts from Judaism280
The Status of Women and their Place in Society and the Family284
11. Between Innovation and Conservatism306
Innovation and Mission311
How Did Rashi Attain his Historic Status?313
Index of Scriptural References326
Index of Rabbinic References331
General Index334