שבת ט' בכסלו תשפ"ג 03/12/2022
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  • The Mission Continues

    As in the past so it remains today - we were and still are under the selfsame commitment to adhere to the directions of the Gedolei Yisrael, who stand guard against breaches of purity threatening our camp. When we were required to ask – we asked. When we were instructed to depart – we left. The moment we are summoned back to raise the flag, every other consideration is pushed to the side and we answer: We are ready!

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בראי היום

  • Harav Yisrael Friedman zy”a, the Rebbe of Husyatin

    מוטי, ויקיפדיה העברית

    The ancestral chain of Harav Yisrael Friedman, the founder of the Husyatin chassidic court, originates with the holy Baal Shem Tov. The Husyatin chassidus has its roots in Galicia and eventually came to Tel Aviv, during the turbulent years between the two World Wars.

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  • Maccabi'im Gravesite

    In honour of Chanukah, we will discuss a fascinating, ongoing investigation attempting to establish the place of burial of Mattisyahu Kohen Gadol and his family.

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Reflections

A Fire from the West – Rashi haKadosh

‘Teacher of Israel’ – this was Rabbenu Shlomo Yitzchaki, the holy Rashi whose commentary encompasses the entire Tanach and a large share of the Talmud, granting him generations of ‘sons’ who study his Torah

Motty Meringer 21/07/2009 16:05
Rabbenu Shlomo was born in France in the city of Troyes, known today as Troyes. The actual year of his birth is unknown; evidence shows it to be approximately around the year 4800 (1040) - the same year that marks the passing of Rabbenu Gershom Meor haGolah. Rashi was considered in many ways a replacement of this great luminary.

Rashi descended from a long line of Torah scholars, who could trace their lineage back to David haMelech. The incredible circumstances surrounding his birth are well known in a tale that is lovingly passed down from generation to generation. Rebbe Yitzchak, Rashi’s saintly father, owned a unique and priceless gem which the king longed to acquire, to use in his house of idol-worship. To that end the king sent emissaries to Rebbe Yitzchak and instructed them to bring him together with the gem to the palace, where he would pay for the stone. Against his will Rebbe Yitzchak allowed himself to be led away onto a ship bound for a distant land – but en route he withdrew the stone from his cloak and held it up to the sun as though enjoying its brilliance, and in a swift motion cast it into the sea as though it merely fell from his hands. In the merit of this tremendous sacrifice Rebbe Yitzchak was granted a son who would light up the future with his own brilliant rays.
It is told that at the time Rashi’s mother was pregnant with him, she was walking along a back alleyway in her hometown Worms when a Christian cavalier came galloping on his horse in her direction. The alleyway was very narrow and Rashi’s mother had nowhere to flee. In desperation she pressed herself tightly against the wall, and miraculously – a hollow opened up in the wall behind her where she hid until the cavalier passed. Thus she and her unborn child were saved.
Most of the events of Rashi’s life are obscured behind the mists of history, such as the year he married – although we do have testimony in Rashi’s words themselves that ‘the things I uttered before my teachers, that I lacked bread and clothes, and with millstones around my neck I served them…’ From these words we see that already before he left to study in the Yeshiva of Chachmei Lutir he married and established a family.

Rashi’s teachers were for the most part students of Rabbenu Gershon Meor haGolah. This great Sage was the founder of Yeshivas Chachmei Lutir, to where Rashi headed at the age of twenty in his quest to acquire the Torah’s vast wisdom. At that time Rav Yaakov ben Yakar led the Yeshiva, having succeeded Rabbenu Gershom after the latter’s passing. He became Rashi’s foremost teacher, referred to in Rashi’s writings as ‘Mori haZaken’, or on occasion just ‘Mori’ (my master).
Around four years after Rashi arrived at the Yeshiva Rav Yaakov ben Yakar passed away, after which Rashi continued to study under Rav Yitzchak bar Yehuda. A while later he moved to the city of Worms where he studied under Rebbe Yitzchak haLevi.

In his mid-twenties Rashi moved back to his hometown Troyes, and swiftly became known for his genius throughout France and Germany. Countless letters made their way back and forth over Europe, as the leaders of the generation vied to hear his view on various issues. His opinion was considered the decisive factor in every matter of import. Rashi joined the Beis Din in Troyes and founded a Yeshiva where his students ate at his table and partook of his own bread.

The exact number of offspring born to Rashi is unknown, nor is there record of any sons; however we do know of three righteous daughters. The oldest was married to Rabbenu Meir ben Shmuel miRottenberg; the second daughter became the wife of Rebbe Yehuda bar Nosson – the Rivan, and the third married Rabbenu Efraim. Rashi’s oldest daughter bore to him four illustrious grandsons, three of whom became the greatest of the Baalei Tosfos: Rabbenu Shmuel, known to all as the Rashbam; Rabbenu Yaakov – Rabbenu Tam; and the third was the Rivam. The fourth grandson, Shlomo, tragically passed away at a young age.  Yet a fifth child – a daughter, later married Rashi’s student Rebbe Shmuel ben Reb Simcha (author of ‘Machzor haVitri’); this couple later bore a great grandson to Rashi - the revered Rebbe Yehuda haZaken, who appears many times in Tosfos as the ‘Ri haZaken’.

A fascinating incident is told of Rashi’s grandson Rabbenu Yaakov Tam, who as a young child was sitting on his saintly grandfather’s lap when he reached out his hand to grab hold of the Tefillin on the Tzaddik’s forehead. Observing this, Rashi remarked: you will see, in the future this young boy will disagree with me with regards to Tefillin… and so it was many years later, the famous dispute erupted from which emerged ‘Rashi Tefillin’ versus ‘Rabbenu Tam Tefillin’.

In Rashi’s later years, the Crusaders began their bloodthirsty rampage through the continent on their way to conquer Eretz Yisrael, decimating entire Jewish communities that lay in their path. Thousands of Jews were slaughtered sanctifying G-d’s Name. The story is told that a Commander of the Crusades came to Rashi’s Beis Midrash to ask the sage if the battle would be successful, or if he would return home in disgrace. Rashi warned him that not only would he lose the battle, but he would return home with only two soldiers at his side. The Crusader left to rejoin his legions, and indeed – just as Rashi had predicted, his troops were crushed and he returned home, defeated. However at his side were three soldiers, not two as Rashi had specified, and the Crusader made his way bitterly towards Rashi’s town to avenge him on his bleak and inaccurate prediction. However, as the convoy reached the gateway of the town, a large stone broke away from the archway above their heads and fell onto one of the soldiers, killing him instantly. So it was that the Crusader returned home with only two soldiers at his side, fulfilling the words of the Tzaddik.

Rashi’s foremost and by far the greatest project, was his extensive commentary on the entire Tanach. This gargantuan work encompasses all twenty four books of the Tanach, and in it Rashi explains with crystal clarity the straightforward meaning of the verses in the Torah. Rashi writes at the beginning of Sefer Bereishis: “There are many Aggados and our Sages already arranged them in Bereishis Rabba… I come only [to explain] the straightforward meaning of the verses…” Over the years ‘Peirush Rashi’ has become the foundation of all other commentaries in Tanach, and his is the first to be studied by all those who set their minds and hearts on understanding the Tanach.

 Rashi’s second major project was his commentary on the Talmud Bavli, referred to by other Rishonim as ‘Peirush haKuntress’. It covers the majority of the Talmud, however in a number of Mesechtes the commentary stops abruptly in the middle - such as in Bava Basra, where midway through the third chapter (Perek Chazakas haBatim) Rashi’s commentary unexpectedly comes to an end. In Pesachim too, the entire chapter of Ervei Pesachim is left out. Aside from that there are several Mesechtes on which Rashi did not write any commentary on at all, or there is a commentary but it is unclear as to the true identity of the writer – such as in Meseches Nedarim.

Where Rashi did not write his own commentary others did so in his place – such as in Bava Basra where the Rashbam, Rashi’s grandson, commentates. Legend has it that the Rashbam wrote a commentary on the entire Shas, but when he realized that his grandfather Rashi had compiled a more concise version whilst including the same information as his, he decided to hide away his commentary and leave only the sections which were not covered by Rashi already. We do in fact find that the Rashbam’s explanations are longer than Rashi’s.

There is evidence to support the theory that there were in fact several versions of Rashi’s commentary on the Talmud – as seen from the words of Tosfos and other Rishonim in several places, where they quote sayings of Rashi that don’t appear anywhere in the commentary we have today. The general consensus between those who researched the issue is that Rashi wrote three versions, the first being the one that is studied nowadays. Regarding the second version – some hold that it is the commentary attached to the compilations of Rabbenu Yitzchak Alfassi, the Rif. The third version disappeared completely over the sands of time, to our eternal loss.

Over the centuries that have passed from Rashi’s days until contemporary times, tens and hundreds of commentaries have been written expounding on Rashi’s own – amongst them the Maharal miPrague, the Mizrachi, Sifsei Chachamin - to mention but a few.

It has become an accepted fact that the script Rashi used as he wrote differed from the standard Hebrew script – however, despite the fact that this script has come to bear the term ‘Rashi script’ it seems there is no connection between the script and Rashi himself. There are those who maintain that it was the daughters of Rashi who originally created this script, but there is no concrete proof to validate this claim.

Throughout Rashi’s writings on the Torah and also on Shas, we find the liberal use of words in ‘Old French’ (b’laaz), which he applied to explain words in the language that was understood by people at that time. Jews and gentiles alike have studied these terms and compiled extensive commentaries to explain them. In recent years, the works of Rashi have aroused the interest of the French as they realized that through his use of foreign terminology, many words from the ancient French language have been preserved.

‘Peirush Rashi’ has become an asset of untold value to the Jewish nation, deemed by the leaders of all generations as the basic and mandatory commentary for the study of Tanach and Shas. The ‘Tzeida laDerech’ wrote in his introduction to his own Sefer, that “Never before has there been such a clear cut guide lighting up the way through the pathways of the Talmud – were it not for this, the way of the Talmud would have been forgotten from the people of Israel”. Rebbe Betzalel Ashkenazi remarks in his writings: “Rashi was the father and teacher of the nation; he who revealed to us the incomprehensible, without him the Gemara would remain a sealed book”.

Rabbenu Shlomo Yitzchaki passed away on the 29th of Tammuz 4465; his resting place remains unknown. It is told that Rashi passed away at the time when he was writing the commentary on Meseches Makos, and when he reached the word ‘Tahor’ – pure, his soul departed in purity. After his passing a heavenly voice called out – “In the future the entire nation of Israel will be your sons”. This proclamation was realised to its fullest, as now, hundreds of years later, each and every Jew learns his Torah with unbridled joy.