Sacred Texts  Judaism  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book at

The Talmud: Selections, by H. Polano, [1876], at


Rabbenu Shelomo Yitzchaki (Our teacher, Solomon the

p. 223

son of Isaac), generally known as Rashi, from the initial letters of his name, was born about the year 1040 in Troyes, France. As a lad, his progress was remarkable; he mastered the most abstruse studies without difficulty, obtaining, in addition to his great proficiency in philology, philosophy, medicine, astronomy, and civil law, a complete mastery over the wide range of Scriptural and Talmudical lore.

He commenced his commentaries upon the Scriptures very early in life, completing the work, it is said, in his thirty-third year. Before giving it to the public, however, he travelled for seven years, visiting the academies of Italy, Greece, Germany, Palestine, and Egypt, storing up for the benefit of coming ages all that an observant eye, a gifted mind, and a diligent scholar could glean.

Upon his return to France, Rashi published his commentaries on the Bible, a book which has never been superseded, and which is now frequently published in connexion with the Hebrew Bible, and he supplemented the same, shortly after, with a commentary upon twenty-three of the treatises of the Talmud.

Many of his works were never published; but among those given to the world is a book of medicine, and a poem, "The Unity of God."

He died at the age of seventy-five years, leaving three daughters, one of whom became the mother of Samuel den Meier, who edited and added to the works of his grandfather.

His eminence, his piety, and his learning became traditional with succeeding generations, and he became the hero of many legends of that nature, which minds in those early days were so ready to grasp and embellish.

It is said that his monarch sent for him upon one occasion, and said to him:

p. 224

"I have prepared a hundred thousand chariots and two hundred ships; I desire to capture Jerusalem. My soldiers and officers are superior in skill and courage to those now in possession; what thinkest thou of my prospects for success?"

"Thou wilt capture Jerusalem," returned Rashi; "thou wilt reign over it three days, and thou wilt return to this city with three horses and as many men thereon."

"Take heed then that there be not four horses," exclaimed the monarch, angered at this prediction, "for if I return with even one more than thou hast said, I will give thy flesh to the fowls of the air."

The war lasted for four years. The monarch returned with but four horsemen left of all his army, and as they passed through the gates of the city a stone fell, killing one horse and its rider instantly. This brought to mind the words of Rashi; but when the king sought for him, he found that during his absence the old man had gone the way of all flesh.

It is claimed that the chair which Rashi used in the college is still in existence.

Rashi was also called Jarchi, derived from the name of the city in which he lived, "Lunel." Jerach being the Hebrew, as lune is the French for moon.

In the words of the Talmud, "A righteous man never dies," and, "Happy the man that hath found wisdom, and he that hath acquired understanding."

Next: Maimonides