April 14, 2024
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Breaking New Ground: The Elucidated Rashi on Chumash

(Courtesy of Artscroll) First there was the “Schottenstein Edition Talmud.” Then there was the “Schottenstein Edition Mishnah Elucidated.” Now there is the “Schottenstein Edition Elucidated Rashi on Chumash.”

For centuries, the brilliant light of Rashi—Rav Shlomo ben Yitzchak of medieval France—has illuminated the world of Torah, earning him the esteemed title of the “Father of Commentators.” With unrivaled clarity and grace, Rashi’s commentary on the Torah has become an integral—and truly indispensable—part of Chumash study. So brilliant are his commentaries that over 300 works have been dedicated to dissecting his wisdom.

Behind the seemingly simple words lies a treasure trove of knowledge and profound thought. Rashi’s meticulous selection of citations from the vast literature of Chazal reveals the depths of his scholarship. Every word he chose carries a world of meaning and significance, leaving a trail of insights for those who seek to comprehend his methodology.

The study of the Torah through the lens of Rashi has become a sacred duty for each generation. The barriers of language and limited understanding must be overcome so that fellow Jews may, in essence, sit in Rashi’s beit midrash and partake of his exploration of the Torah’s depths.

For decades, English speakers have relied on the Mesorah Heritage Foundation’s Sapirstein Edition Rashi to gain clarity and understanding of the Torah’s foremost commentary. It remains the most popular choice for teachers and students, who benefit from its translation of Rashi, highlighted and interwoven with explanatory words and phrases to ease and clarify the flow of Rashi’s text.

Now, the world of Torah has grown. There are more people studying Torah today than ever before, and their level of knowledge and sophistication is higher than ever. They want more. They wish to dig a bit deeper, understanding not just what Rashi says, but the underlying concepts, along with deeper looks into Rashi’s thought process and those places where the commentators disagree with Rashi. What motivated Rashi with his specific remark? What counterargument does the Ramban put forth? How does the wording in the Torah reveal Rashi’s intended interpretation? To which passage in the Targum does Rashi allude?

Those who delve into the teachings of Rashi inevitably encounter inquiries of this nature. Beneath the deceptively straightforward exterior of Rashi’s commentary lies a depth that has captivated the intellects of esteemed talmidei chachamim for more than eight centuries.

Enter “The Elucidated Rashi on Chumash.”

This groundbreaking new series presents Rashi’s wisdom with unparalleled depth and clarity. Skillfully added explanatory words ensure the seamless flow of Rashi’s commentary, clarifying his points and connecting them with the text of the Chumash. Comprehensive notes offer additional insights into Rashi’s ideas and provide questions and clarifications from other renowned commentators.

“The Elucidated Rashi on Chumash is unlike anything published before in any language, Hebrew, English or otherwise,” said Rabbi Gedaliah Zlotowitz, president of the Mesorah Heritage Foundation. “Calling it ‘revolutionary’ is not an overstatement. No work on Rashi has ever been produced on this level.”

As mentioned, there are hundreds of commentaries on Rashi. “The Elucidated Rashi culls from them all,” said Rabbi Eliezer Herzka, general editor of the project, “distilling them into a clear, comprehensive approach to Rashi. The work is designed to give a broad and in-depth presentation of Rashi, clear enough for even the young student to understand, yet thorough enough for even the talmid chacham to appreciate.”

All seekers of deeper Torah understanding will undoubtedly embrace “The Elucidated Rashi on Chumash,” a reservoir of scholarly achievement.

Chazal tell us, “When a [deceased] Torah scholar’s words are repeated in this world, his lips move in the grave [as if he were still alive] (Yevamos 97a).

Using this standard as the criterion for “aliveness,” Rashi is possibly the most “alive” Torah scholar today. Virtually every student of Torah, from the child in elementary school to the greatest Torah sage, no matter what area of Torah he studies, refers to Rashi. It is for good reason that Rashi in Hebrew, רשי, is seen as an acronym of “Rabban Shel Yisroel, Rabbi of Israel.”

In the year 800 of the fifth millennium, the glory of Israel went into exile with the passing of Rabbeinu Gershom Meor Hagolah. With this, the statement of the Sages on the verse “The sun rises and the sun sets” was fulfilled. The sun of Rashi rose.

Born in 4800 (1040 C.E.) in Troyes, France, Rashi hailed from a lineage of esteemed Torah scholars.

His mother was the sister of Rav Shimon HaZaken (“the elder”), a disciple of Rabbeinu Gershom, as attested to by Rashi in his comments to Shabbos 85b. His father, Rav Yitzchak, was also a Torah scholar. Rashi quotes him in his comments to Avodah Zarah 75a. Rav Yitzchak was descended from the Tanna Rav Yochanan HaSandlar, who was himself a descendant of King David.

Rashi left Troyes to study in the yeshivas of the students of Rabbeinu Gershom. He first went to Mainz, where he studied under his principal teacher, Rav Yaakov ben Rav Yakar, of whom Rashi writes, “My heart, my logic, my understanding, came from him.” Rav Yaakov was noted for his humility, a trait emulated by his foremost disciple.

After Rav Yaakov’s death in 1064, Rashi moved on to the yeshiva of Rav Yitzchak ben Elazar HaLevi in Worms. He studied there amidst poverty even after his marriage.

Despite his greatness, Rashi never sought to hold rabbinic positions. Some stories suggest that he earned a livelihood as a wine merchant, yet his influence and standing in the Torah world were unparalleled. After his return to Troyes, he founded a yeshiva that attracted students from near and far, including France and Germany. He took three of them as his sons-in-law. Rav Yehudah ben Nassan married Rashi’s oldest daughter Miriam. He completed the commentary to Tractate Makkot, which Rashi was working on at the time of his passing. His second daughter Yocheved married Rav Meir ben Shmuel. They were the parents of the best known of Rashi’s grandsons, Rav Shmuel ben Rav Meir (Rashbam), Rav Yaakov (Rabbeinu Tam), and Rav Yitzchak ben R’ Meir (Rivam). The name of his third daughter is not known. She is believed to have married Rav Ephraim.

Rashi’s vast knowledge and dedication to Torah were evident as he nurtured the minds of future Torah giants.

His immense contributions to Torah scholarship lie in his commentaries, which he meticulously worked on throughout his life. Covering almost all of scripture and the Talmud, Rashi’s commentaries have become an integral part of Jewish education. From early childhood, Jewish children learn to appreciate scripture through the lens of the oral tradition. As they grow older, they come to cherish the depth and precision of Rashi’s words, discovering new layers of meaning. For serious students of Talmud, Rashi’s commentary is an indispensable tool, without which the Talmud would be like an enigmatic puzzle. Using identical language, both Rav Yitzchak bar Sheshes (Rivash) and Rav Betzalel Ashkenazi (author of Shitah Mekubetzet) said that without Rashi, the Talmud would be “like a sealed book.”

On 29 Tammuz 4865 (1105 C.E.), Rashi’s physical presence left this world, but his impact continues to reverberate throughout the ages. His awe-inspiring works will forever ensure that his legacy lives on, shaping the minds and hearts of Torah learners for generations to come. As the sages proclaimed, when a Torah scholar’s words are repeated, it is as if their lips continue to move from the grave. Rashi’s lips will never cease to impart wisdom and enlightenment to all who seek the profound truths of the Torah.

“The Illuminated Rashi on the Chumash,” to be complete in 10 volumes—two on each book of the Torah—s set to illuminate minds far and wide, bestowing incomparable insight into Rashi’s teachings on the Chumash in what is being hailed as the most impressive contemporary treatment of Rashi’s commentary on Chumash. Released thus far, as of this writing, is the first volume, on Parashat Bereishit through Toldot.

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