Rashi (Jewish Encounters Series)

Rashi (Jewish Encounters Series)

Elie Wiesel

Language: English

Pages: 107

ISBN: 0805242546

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Part of the Jewish Encounter series

From Elie Wiesel, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, comes a magical book that introduces us to the towering figure of Rashi—Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki—the great biblical and Talmudic commentator of the Middle Ages.

Wiesel brilliantly evokes the world of medieval European Jewry, a world of profound scholars and closed communities ravaged by outbursts of anti-Semitism and decimated by the Crusades. The incomparable scholar Rashi, whose phrase-by-phrase explication of the oral law has been included in every printing of the Talmud since the fifteenth century, was also a spiritual and religious leader: His perspective, encompassing both the mundane and the profound, is timeless.

Wiesel’s Rashi is a heartbroken witness to the suffering of his people, and through his responses to major religious questions of the day we see still another side of this greatest of all interpreters of the sacred writings.

Both beginners and advanced students of the Bible rely on Rashi’s groundbreaking commentary for simple text explanations and Midrashic interpretations. Wiesel, a descendant of Rashi, proves an incomparable guide who enables us to appreciate both the lucidity of Rashi’s writings and the milieu in which they were formed.

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descendants. But Rashi, for unexplained reasons, hardly touches on these. “And Sarah died.” Rashi feels the need to comment on how close the Akedah (the sacrifice of Isaac) is to the death of his mother: it is when she learned of the event that her soul left her. Here again, the Midrash elaborates on this at greater length, stressing the part played by Satan. Why doesn’t Rashi use it? Could it be that this episode troubles him more deeply than others? Isaac of course survives his ordeal and

war against Rome who, after his capture by the Romans, became a favorite of the emperor, writes The Jewish War, his history of the war against Rome. CA. 100 Onkelos, a proselyte and contemporary of the Rabban Gamliel and Eliezer ben Hyracnus, prominent rabbis of the Mishnah, translates the Bible into Aramaic, the common language of Jews at that time. Onkelos’s Aramaic translation, which by necessity contains interpretation, is still printed as one of the standard commentaries on the Torah. CA.

witness, in Rouen, the Crusaders locked the Jews in a church and ordered them to convert, then massacred them with two-edged swords, men, women, and children. Moreover, Godfrey of Bouillon declared publicly that he “wouldn’t set off except if he had avenged the blood of the crucified in the blood of Israel and not let a single person with a Jewish name survive.” These atrocities, and others, were committed wherever the Crusaders of Christendom made their appearance, including in the province of

violent, he was not really loved by his father. How are we to explain these seemingly unjust allegories if not by the more or less hostile political, social, and religious environment of the period? Weren’t the people of Israel assailed, threatened, attacked, and tormented by both Christians and Muslims? A general rule: whenever he can, Rashi chooses passages in the Midrash that can be interpreted as arguments against “the other nations.” Why? There again, let us draw on Grossman who attributes

some, he was also a mystic (a staunch believer in miracles—and not just the biblical ones of the past—he believed that at the advent of the Messianic era, the Third Temple would descend from heaven). But he was in many ways a scientific rationalist, making accessible and familiar things that are not. Nothing is meant to remain complicated forever. The Torah is not up in the heavens, unchanging, among the angels and seraphs, but here down below. It is up to men to interpret it and reinterpret it

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