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Monumental Torah Project

Rabbi Yehuda Amitai Shoshanah

Part One: Who is R”I HaZakein? The dynasty of Torah greatness founded by Rashi and his descendants is one of the most illustrious in Jewish history. Every student of Torah, beginner and talmid chacham alike, has benefited immeasurably from the commentaries of Rashi and his immediate descendants: Rashbam, Rabbeinu Tam, and R”I, whose combined writings are the fundamental basis of Torah learning.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Family History

The dynasty of Torah greatness founded by Rashi and his descendants is one of the most illustrious and accomplished in Jewish history. Every student of Torah, beginner and talmid chacham alike, has benefited immeasurably from the commentaries of Rashi and his immediate descendants: Rashbam, Rabbeinu Tam, and R”I, whose combined writings are the fundamental basis of all serious Torah learning the world over. Rashi explicated the entire Torah shebichtav, Torah, Neviim uKesuvim, as well as almost the entire Talmud. It is universally acknowledged that, as the Rivash (Teshuvos, siman 394) writes, without Rashi’s commentary, the Talmud would have remained a “sealed book” (Yeshayahu 29:11). He also authored many teshuvos, halachah seforim and piyutim, sizeable portions of which survive to date.

Already during Rashi’s lifetime, his commentary to the Talmud had become indispensible to the study of Gemara in France and Germany, and soon thereafter, throughout the entire Jewish Diaspora. His spiritual descendants, the Baalei HaTosafos, saw their main task as expanding upon Rashi’s perushim. They accomplished this by utilizing the method of the chachmei haTalmud themselves: comparing and contrasting the sugyos of the Talmud, analyzing the apparent contradictions between them, and providing explanations which in turn became part of limud haTorah and the masores of psak halachah. This dialectical process brought forth original explanations, rationales, and perushim that illuminated the entire Talmud.

These unique elucidations quickly became the basis of limud haTalmud in the yeshivos of Baalei HaTosafos in France and Germany, and eventually in the yeshivos of the Rishonim in Spain, Provence, Italy, North Africa, and the East. The term tosafos means “additions,” alluding to the aim of the Baalei HaTosafos to merely add to and expound upon Rashi’s commentary. However, the final product — the additions — turned out to be far more voluminous than Rashi’s commentary itself. These additions, in fact, constitute free-standing “super-commentaries.”

 

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