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   Chapter 3 RASHI AT TROYES-LAST YEARS

Rashi By Maurice Liber Characters: 32758

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04


The youth Rashi has now completed his apprenticeship; in his studies and travels he has amassed a vast store of information, which he will use for the profit of his contemporaries and of posterity; and he now believes himself in possession of sufficient knowledge and experience to strike out for himself. Moreover, he must now provide for his family-we have seen that he married while still a student. But he does not give up his studies.

His change of abode was the only change in his life, a life of remarkable unity, the life of a student. Rashi gave himself up entirely to study, to study without cessation, and to teaching; but teaching is only a form of pursuing one's studies and summing them up.

I

Detailed and comprehensive though the Talmudic studies were, nevertheless the student, especially if he was gifted, completed the course when he was not much more than twenty years of age. Rashi, then, was probably close to twenty-five years old when he returned from Mayence. This return marks an epoch in the history of rabbinical literature. From that time, the study of the Talmud was cultivated not alone upon the banks of the Rhine, but also in Champagne, which came to rival and soon supplant Lorraine, and having freed itself from the subjection of the Rhenish schools, radiated the light of science. Jews from all over Christian Europe gathered there to bask in the warmth of the new home of Jewish learning. Less than ten centuries earlier, the same thing had happened when Rab transplanted the teaching of the Law from Palestine to Babylonia, and founded an academy at Sura, which, for a while rivalling [rivaling sic] the Palestinian schools, soon eclipsed them, and finally became the principal centre [center sic] of Jewish science. The Kabbalist was not so very far from the truth when he believed that the soul of Rab had passed into the body of Rashi.

It is noteworthy that this upgrowth of Talmudic schools in Champagne coincides with the literary movement then beginning in Christian France. In emerging from the barbarous state of the early middle ages, it seems that the same breath of life quickened the two worlds. The city of Troyes played an especially important role in matters intellectual and religious. A number of large councils were held there, and the ecclesiastical school of Troyes enjoyed a brilliant reputation, having trained scholars such as Olbert, Pierre Comestor, Pierre de Celle, and William of the White Hands. And it was near Troyes that the mighty voices of Abelard and Saint Bernard resounded.

There is a curious reminder of Rashi's sojourn at Troyes. As late as 1840 an ancient butcher shop was still standing, into which, it was remarked, flies never entered. Jewish tradition has it that the shop was built on the spot previously occupied by Rashi's dwelling-hence its miraculous immunity. The same legend is found among the Christians, but they ascribe the freedom from flies to the protection of Saint Loup, the patron saint of the city, who himself worked the miracle. Rashi is linked with Troyes in ways more natural as well. As I have said, certain expressions occur in his works which he himself says refer to his city. Some scholars have even stated that they recognized in the language he used the dialect of Troyes, a variety of the speech of Champagne, itself a French patois.

It is probable that Rashi-who was never at the head of the Talmudic schools of Worms or Prague, as the legends go-exercised the functions of a rabbi at Troyes, that he never kept himself exclusively within the confines of his school, 'and that he felt it his duty to instruct all his fellow-Jews. In conjunction with his intellectual endowments, he possessed faith and charity, the true sources of strength in religious leadership. He was the natural champion of the weak,[21] the judge and supervisor of all acts. He pronounced judgment in cases more or less distantly connected with religion, that is, in nearly all cases at a period so thoroughly religious in character. Either because he had been appointed their rabbi by the faithful, or because he enjoyed great prestige, Rashi was the veritable spiritual chief of the community, and even exercised influence upon the surrounding communities. The man to preside over the religious affairs of the Jews was chosen not so much for his birth and breeding as for his scholarship and piety, since the rabbi was expected to distinguish himself both in learning and in character. "He who is learned, gentle, and modest," says the Talmud, "and who is beloved of men, he should be judge in his city." As will soon be made clear, Rashi fulfilled this ideal. His piety and amiability, in as great a degree as his learning, won for him the admiration of his contemporaries and of posterity. At Troyes there was no room for another at the head of the community.

Like most of the rabbis of the time, Rashi accepted no compensation from the community for his services, and he probably lived from what he earned by viticulture. Once he begs a correspondent to excuse the shortness of his letter, because he and his family were busy with the vintage. "All the Jews," he said, "are at this moment engaged in the vineyards." In a letter to his son-in-law Meir, he gives a description of the wine- presses of Troyes, in the installation of which a change had been made. It was deemed fitting that the scholar should provide for the needs of his family; the law in fact imposed it upon him as a duty. "Religious study not accompanied by work of the hands is barren and leads to sin." The functions of a rabbi were purely honorific in character, dignifying, and unrelated in kind to' mercantile goods, for which one receives pay. It was forbidden to make the law a means of earning one's living or a title to glory. "He who profits by his studies or who studies for his own interest, compromises his salvation."

When the religious representative showed such devotion and disinterestedness, the pious willingly submitted themselves to his authority. The spiritual heads of the communities had as great ascendency [ascendancy sic] over believing Jews as a king had over his subjects; they were sovereigns in the realm of the spirit. And Rashi in his time, because of his learning and piety, exercised the most undisputed authority. His influence though not so great was comparable, in the sphere in which it could be exercised, with that of the great Saint Bernard upon the entire Christian world, or with that of Maimonides upon Judaism in the Arabic countries.

People in all circumstances and from all the surrounding countries addressed themselves to him; and to the list of his correspondents in Lorraine may be added the names of several French rabbis, the "wise men" of Auxerre, the scholar Solomon of Tours, whom Rashi calls his dear friend, his kinsman Eleazar, and R. Aaron the Elder. His correspondence on learned questions was so large that sometimes, as when he was ill, for instance, he would have his disciples or relatives help him out with it.[22]

About 1070 Rashi founded a school at Troyes, which soon became the centre [center sic] of instruction in the Talmud for the whole region. As we have seen, Gershom trained a number of disciples who directed schools, each of which pursued a particular course. Rashi united these various tendencies, as, later, his work put an end to the activity of the commentators of the Talmud. An explanation is thus afforded of the legend repeated by Basnage in these words: "He made a collection of the difficulties he had heard decided during his travels. On his return to Europe he went to all the academies and disputed with the professors about the questions which they were discussing; then he threw to the floor a page of his collections, which gave a solution of the problem, and so ended the controversy, without, however, mentioning the name of the author of the decision. It is alleged that these leaves scattered in thousands of places were gathered together, and that from them was composed the commentary on the Talmud." The legend attests Rashi's great reputation. While he was still quite young, his renown had rapidly spread.

When in Lorraine, he had from time to time paid a visit to Troyes, and so, later, when definitely established in Champagne, he maintained relations with his masters, especially with Isaac ha-Levi, whom he visited and with whom he corresponded in the interim of his visits. Isaac ha-Levi was no less fond of his favorite pupil, and he inquired of travellers [travelers sic] about him. He addressed Responsa to Rashi on questions of Talmudic jurisprudence. In fact, Rashi continued to solicit advice from his teachers and keep himself informed of everything concerning schools and Talmudic instruction. In this way he once learned that a Talmudic scholar of Rome, R. Kalonymos (ben Sabbatai, born before 1030) had come after the death of Jacob ben Yakar to establish himself at Worms, where he died, probably a martyr's death, during the First Crusade. Kalonymos, who enjoyed a great reputation, wrote Talmudic commentaries and liturgical poems. His was a personality rare in that period.

Rashi's masters, in turn, often applied to their pupil for advice, choosing him as arbiter and consulting him with a deference more fitting toward a colleague than a disciple. Isaac ha-Levi wrote the following words, in which one detects real esteem and admiration underlying epistolary emphasis and the usual exaggeration of a compliment: "Blessed be the Lord who willed that this century should not be orphaned, who has steadied our tottering generation by eminent teachers, such as my dear and respected friend, my kinsman R. Solomon. May Israel boast many another such as he!" Equally sincere seems the salutation of a letter written to Rashi by Isaac ben Judali: "To him who is beloved in heaven and honored on earth, who possesses the treasures of the Law, who knows how to resolve the most subtle and profound questions, whose knowledge moves mountains and shatters rocks, etc."

After the death of Rashi's teachers (about 1075) his school 'assumed even more importance. It eclipsed the academies of Lorraine, and from all the neighboring countries it attracted pupils, who later went forth and spread the teachings of their master abroad. Rashi came to be considered almost the regenerator of Talmudic studies, and in the following generation Eliezer ben Xathan said with pious admiration: "His lips were the seat of wisdom, and thanks to him the Law, which he examined and interpreted, has come to life again."

In this school, justly renowned as the centre [center sic] of Jewish science, master and pupil were animated by equal love for their work. Entire days were spent there in study, and often, especially in winter, entire nights as well. The studies were regulated by a judicious method. The teacher began to explain a treatise of the Talmud on the first of the month, in order that the students might take their measures accordingly, and not delay coming until after the treatise had been begun. The pupils took notes dictated by the teacher, and thus composed manuscripts which are still of great value. In so doing they fixed all the minutiae of a detailed process of argumentation. On the other hand, books were rare, and students poor. The master himself, in order to facilitate his task, wrote explanations during the lesson, and these served as textbooks, which, like the students' notebooks, became treasure houses for later generations.

Rashi not only imparted knowledge to his pupils, but received knowledge from them in turn. He set great store by their observations. His grandson Samuel ben Meir once drew his attention to a certain form of Biblical parallelism, in which the second hemistich completes the first, as in the following verse from Psalm xciii:

"The floods have lifted up, O Lord,

The floods have lifted up their voice."

After this, each time Rashi came across a similarly constructed verse, he would say with mock gravity: "Here's a verse for my Samuel."

The Jewish student led a pure, regulated existence, with only wholesome distractions, such as the little celebrations when the study of a Talmudic treatise had been completed. His greatest pleasure he found in the swordplay of mind against mind, in the love of knowledge and religion.

Rashi did not content himself with giving instruction only to students under his immediate influence. He desired that his teachings should not be lost to men unknown to him and to unborn generations. He realized that everything so far accomplished in the field of Talmudic and even Biblical exegesis was inadequate, and he therefore undertook the works that were to occupy him the rest of his life. His school was, so to speak, the laboratory of which his Biblical and Talmudic commentaries were the products. They involved a vast amount of toil, and though death overtook him before his task was accomplished, he doubtless began the work early in life.[23] A legend goes that he was forbidden to write commentaries on the Bible before he was a hundred years old. Rashi with all his ardor for learning could not curb himself and postpone his activity for so long a time, and he turned the prohibition in his own favor by explaining that the sum of the Hebrew letters forming the word "hundred" amounted to forty-six.

Rashi's disciples were in very truth his sons, for no sons were born to the illustrious rabbi. But he had three daughters, who each married a Talmudist, so that Rashi's descendants, no less than himself, were the bearers of rabbinic learning in France. Rashi did not limit his association with his pupils to the school-house, but invited them to enter his family circle. Indeed, this was the highest honor to which they could aspire. It has always been the greatest piece of good fortune for a Jew to marry the daughter of a learned and pious man, and the suitors most desired by and for young girls were scholars. In this way arose veritable dynasties of rabbis, who cherished learning as a heritage, a family treasure, and the Rashi "dynasty" was one of the greatest and most renowned among them.

Tradition has delighted in representing Rashi's daughters as highly endowed. Unfortunately, it seems that the education of women among the Jews of the middle ages was greatly neglected, though they were taught the principles of religion and the ordinances which it was their special duty to fulfil [fulfill sic]. They possessed the domestic virtues, and above all modesty and charity. They helped their husbands in business, thus enabling them to devote themselves more freely to study, and though the women themselves lacked learning, they concerned themselves with the learning of their men-folk, and were eager to contribute to the support of schools and pupils. They were extremely pious, often scrupulously so. The women in a family of scholars had sufficient knowledge to be called upon in ritual questions, as, for instance, Bellette, sister of Isaac ben Menahem the Great, of Orleans, a contemporary of Rashi, who appealed to her authority. Other cases of the same kind are mentioned, some occurring in Rashi's own family, his granddaughter Miriam having been asked to adjudicate a doubtful case. One of Rashi's daughters, also called Miriam, married the scholar Judah ben Nathan. Rachel, another daughter, given a French epithet, Bellassez,[24] also seems to have been learned. Her union with a certain Eliezer, or Jocelyn, was unhappy. Not so the marriage of the third daughter of Rashi, Jochebed, whose husband was the scholar Meir, son of Samuel, of Rameru, a little village near Troyes. She had four sons, named Samuel, Jacob, Isaac, and Solomon. The three first, and in a less degree the fourth, too, continued in glorious wise the traditions of their grandfather. I shall have occasion again to mention them, their life, and their work.

The renown of his posterity, far from dimming Rashi's brilliance, only added fresh lustre [luster sic] to the name of him who was both father and revered master. Even in his life-time Rashi could reap the harvest of his efforts, and though death intervened before his work was completed, he saw at his side collaborators ready to continue what he had begun.

A marriage among the Jews of France of that ep

och must have been a charming and touching ceremony, to judge from a picturesque description, given by an author of the fourteenth century, of a wedding at Mayence, a city in which the community had preserved ancient customs.

Several days before the ceremony the beadle invited all the faithful; for it was a public festival, and everybody was supposed to share in the joy of the bride and bridegroom. On the day of the wedding, the bridegroom, attended by the rabbi and men of standing in the community and followed by other members of the congregation, proceeded to the synagogue to the accompaniment of music. At the synagogue he was awaited by the bride, who was surrounded by her maids of honor and by a number of women. The rabbi presented the young girl to the bridegroom, and he took her hand, while the by-standers showered grains of wheat upon them and small pieces of money, which were picked up by the poor. Then, hand in hand, the couple walked to the door of the synagogue, where they paused a while. After this the bride was led to her own home so that she might complete her toilet. Under a large mantle of silk and fur, with puffed sleeves, she wore a white robe, symbol of the mourning for Zion, the memory of which was not to leave her even on this day of joy. The sign of mourning adopted for the bridegroom was a special headgear.

After the bridegroom had returned to the synagogue and placed himself near the Ark of the Law, the morning service was held. Meanwhile the bride was led to the door of the synagogue, always to the accompaniment of music, and the bridegroom, conducted by the rabbi and the heads of the community, went to receive her there. He placed himself on her left, and preceded by his mother and the mother of the bride, he guided her to the pulpit in the centre [center sic] of the synagogue. Here was pronounced the nuptial benediction.

The ceremony over, the husband hastened to his home to meet his wife and introduce her to the dwelling of which she was to be the mistress. Here it was that the wedding feast was spread. Festivities continued for several days, and the following Saturday special hymns were inserted in the service in honor of the newlywedded couple.[25] No parade or pomp marred the beauty and grace of this ceremony, every act of which bespoke pure poetry and religion.

From this it is evident how much domestic virtues were prized among the Jews of the middle ages. The family was expected to be a model of union and harmony, of tenderness of mate toward mate and parents toward children. Gentleness and a spirit of trust were to preside over the household. Rashi, as we shall see,[26] speaks in moving terms of the high regard which a man owes his wife.

II

But it was not given to Rashi to pass untroubled through his fruitful life of study. A terrible shock surprised him. The eleventh century set in a sea of blood.

Some legends have a hardy life. Not the least remarkable of these is the myth that the Crusades were wholly inspired by religious zeal. These great European movements are always represented as having been called forth by enthusiasm and thirst for self- sacrifice. A great wave of faith, we are told, swept over the masses, and carried them on to the conquest of the Holy Sepulchre. There is another side to the shield-faith fawning on political expediency and egoism, and turning brigand. Without doubt many Christians went on the Crusades impelled by religious conviction. But how many nourished less vague ideas in their hearts? Not to mention those whose only aim was to escape from the consequences of their misdeeds and obtain absolution and indulgences, not to mention those who were animated by a foolish sense of chivalry, by love of adventure, of perilous risks, drawn by the attraction of the unknown and the marvellous [marvelous sic] - apart from these, there was the great mass, impelled by greed and thirst for pillage.

Complaisant historians express their admiring wonder at these "hundreds of thousands of men fighting with their eyes doggedly fixed upon the Holy Sepulchre and dying in order to conquer it." They pity these "multitudes of men who threw themselves on Islam the unknown, these naive, trusting spirits, who each day imagined themselves at Jerusalem, and died on the road thither." Would it not be well for them to reserve a little of their admiration and pity for the unfortunates that were the victims of these "naive" multitudes? Ought they not to say that this religious fervor was a mixture chiefly of blind hate and bloody fanaticism? After a victory the Crusaders would massacre the populations of the conquered cities, including in the slaughter not only the Mohammedans but also the Oriental Christians. Then why should we wonder if on the road to Palestine they laid violent hands on the Jews they found by the way?[27]

It is known what an important part France played in the First

Crusade. From France issued the spark that set the entire

Occident aflame, and France furnished the largest contingent to

the Crusades.

However, the disorders in France were merely local. If the rage for blood enkindled by the First Crusade scarcely affected the Jews of France, it is because the population was concentrated on the banks of the Rhine. But here its murderous frenzy knew no bounds. The people threw themselves on the Jewish communities of Treves, Speyer, Worms, Mayence, and Cologne, and put to death all who refused to be converted (May to July, 1096). The noise of events such as these perforce "found a path through the sad hearts" of the Jews of Champagne; for they maintained lively and cordial relations with their brethren in the Rhine lands, many being bound to them by ties of kinship. Among the martyrs of 1096 was Asher ha-Levi, who was the disciple of Isaac ben Eleazar, Rashi's second teacher, and who died together with his mother, his two brothers, and their families. From a Hebrew text we learn that the Jews of France ordered a fast and prayers in commemoration of these awful massacres, the victims of which numbered not less than ten thousand.

But all could not sacrifice their lives for the sake of their faith. Though so large a number were slain by the pious hordes or slew one another in order to escape violence, others allowed themselves to be baptized, or adopted Christianity, in appearance at least. After the Crusaders were at a distance, on the way to their death in the Orient, the Jews left behind could again breathe freely. Of many of them, Gregory of Tours might have said that "the holy water had washed their bodies but not their hearts, and, liars toward God, they returned to their original heresy." The emperor of Germany, Henry IV, it seems, even authorized those who had been forced into baptism to return to Judaism, and the baptized Jews hastened to throw off the hateful mask. This benevolent measure irritated the Christian clergy, and the Pope bitterly reproached the Emperor.

What sadder, more curious spectacle than that which followed? Many of those Jews who had remained faithful to their religion would not consider the apostates as their brethren, unwilling apostates though they had been, and strenuously opposed their re-admission to the Synagogue.

This unwillingness to compound, showing so little generosity and charity, must have distressed Rashi profoundly. For, when consulted in regard to the repulsed converts, he displayed a loftiness of view and a breadth of tolerance which Maimonides himself could not equal. In similar circumstances Maimonides, it seems, in intervening, yielded a little to personal prepossession. "Let us beware," wrote Rashi, "let us beware of alienating those who have returned to us by repulsing them. They became Christians only through fear of death; and as soon as the danger disappeared, they hastened to return to their faith."

Though the First Crusade affected the Jews of France only indirectly, it none the less marks a definite epoch in their history. The fanaticism it engendered wreaked its fury upon the Jews, against whom all sorts of odious charges were brought. They were placed in the same category as sorcerers and lepers, and among the crimes laid at their door were ritual murder and piercing of the host. The instigations of the clergy did not remain without effect upon a people lulled to sleep by its ignorance, but aroused to action by its faith. The kings and seigneurs on their side exploited the Jews, and expelled them from their territories.

Rashi had the good fortune not to know these troublous times. But he discerned in a sky already overcast the threatening premonitions of a tempest, and as though to guard his fellow-Jews against the danger, he left them a work which was to be a viaticum and an asylum to them. When one sees how Rashi's work brought nourishment, so to speak, to all later Jewish literature, which was a large factor in keeping Israel from its threatened ruin, one is convinced that Rashi, aside from his literary efforts, contributed no slight amount toward the preservation and the vitality of the Jewish people.

Even if the Crusades had not involved persecution of the Jews and so provoked the noble intervention of Rashi, they would nevertheless have made themselves felt in Champagne. Count Hugo, among others, remained in the Holy Land from 1104 to 1108; and his brother was killed at Ramleh in 1102. According to a rather wide-spread legend, Rashi stood in intimate relations with one of the principal chiefs of the Crusade, the famous duke of Lower Lotharingia, Godfrey of Bouillon. Historians have found that the part actually played by the duke in the Crusades is smaller than that ascribed to him by tradition, yet the profound impression he made on the popular imagination has remained, and legend soon endowed him with a fabulous genealogy, making of him an almost mythical personage. A favorite trick of the makers of legends is to connect their heroes with celebrated contemporaries, as though brilliance was reflected from one upon the other. Thus Saladin was connected with Maimonides and with Richard the Lion-Hearted, and, similarly, Rashi with Godfrey of Bouillon.

The story goes that Godfrey, having heard rumors of the knowledge and wisdom of the rabbi of Troyes, summoned Rashi to his presence to consult with him upon the issue of his undertaking. Rashi refused to appear. Annoyed, Godfrey accompanied by his cavaliers went to the rabbi's school. He found the door open, but the great building empty. By the strength of his magic Rashi had made himself invisible, but he himself could see everything. "Where art thou, Solomon?" cried the cavalier. "Here I am," a voice answered; "what does my lord demand?" Godfrey not seeing a living soul repeated his question, and always received the same answer. But not a man to be seen! Utterly confounded, he left the building and met a disciple of Rashi's. "Go tell thy master," he said, "that he should appear; I swear he has nothing to fear from me." The rabbi then revealed himself.[28] "I see," Godfrey said to him, "that thy wisdom is great. I should like to know whether I shall return from my expedition victorious, or whether I shall succumb. Speak without fear."

"Thou wilt take the Holy City," Rashi replied, "and thou wilt reign over Jerusalem three days, but on the fourth day the Moslem will put thee to flight, and when thou returnest only three horses will be left to thee."

"It may be," replied Godfrey, irritated and disillusioned in seeing his future pictured in colors so sombre. "But if I return with only one more horse than thou sayest, I shall wreak frightful vengeance upon thee. I shall throw thy body to the dogs, and I shall put to death all the Jews of France."

After several years of fighting Godfrey of Bouillon, ephemeral king of Jerusalem, took his homeward road back to France, accompanied by three cavaliers, in all, 'then, four horses, one more than Rashi had predicted. Godfrey remembered the rabbi's prophecy, and determined to carry out his threat. But when he entered the city of Troyes, a large rock, loosened from the gate, fell upon one of the riders, killing him and his horse. Amazed at the miracle, the duke perforce had to recognize that Rashi had not been wrong, and he wanted to go to the seer to render him homage, but he learned that Rashi had died meanwhile. This grieved him greatly.

This legend was further embellished by the addition of details. Some placed the scene at Worms; others asserted that the duke asked Rashi to accompany him to Lorraine; but Rashi nobly refused, as Maimonides did later. All forgot that Godfrey of Bouillon after he left for the Crusades never saw his fatherland again, but died at Jerusalem, five years before Rashi.

Rashi's life offers no more noteworthy events. He passed the balance of his days in study, in guiding the community, and in composing his works. Without doubt, our lack of information concerning his last years is due to this very fact-to the peace and calm in which that time was spent.

A naive legend has it that he wanted to know who would be his companion in Paradise. He learned in a dream that the man lived at Barcelona, and was called Abraham the Just. In order to become acquainted with him while still on earth, Rashi, despite his great age, started forth on a journey to Barcelona. There he found a very rich man, but, as was alleged, he was also very impious. However, Rashi was not long in discovering that for all his life of luxury he was just and generous of spirit. Rashi even composed a work in his honor entitled "The Amphitryon," in Hebrew, Ha-Parnes. Do you think the work was lost? Not a bit of it. It still exists, but it is called Ha-Pardes. The legend is based upon a copyist's mistake. However, it is found in different forms in other literatures.

Beyond a doubt Rashi died and was buried in his birthplace. Nevertheless the story is told, that as he was about to return to France with his young wife, the daughter of his host at Prague, after his long trip of study and exploration, which I have already described, an unknown man entered his dwelling and struck him a mortal blow. But the people could not resign themselves to accept so miserable an end for so illustrious a man, and the legend received an addition. At the very moment Rashi was to be buried, his wife ran up and brought him back to life by means of a philtre. His father-in-law, in order not to excite the envy of his enemies, kept the happy event a secret, and ordered the funeral to be held. The coffin was carried with great pomp to the grave, which became an object of veneration for the Jews of Prague. In fact, a tomb is pointed out as being that of the celebrated rabbi, and, as the inscription is effaced, the assertion can safely be made that Rashi died in the capital of Bohemia.

Rashi's death was less touching and less tragic. We learn from a manuscript dated Thursday, the twenty-ninth of Tammuz, in the year 4865 of the Creation (July 13, 1105), that Rashi died at Troyes. He was then sixty-five years of age.

It is as though the echo of the regrets caused by Rashi's death resounded in the following note in an old manuscript: "As the owner of a fig-tree knows when it is time to cull the figs, so God knew the appointed time of Rashi, and carried him away in his hour to let him enter heaven. Alas! he is no more, for God has taken him." These few lines, without doubt the note of some copyist, show with what deep respect the memory of Rashi came to be cherished but shortly after his death. Like Rabbeun Gershom he was awarded after his death the title of "Light of the Captivity." But later the title was applied only to Gershom, as though Rashi had no need of it to distinguish him.

Rashi died "full of days," having led a life of few incidents, because it was uniformly devoted to study and labor. He was like a patriarch who is surrounded by the affection of his children and by the respect of his contemporaries. To future generations he bequeathed the memory of his virtues and the greatness of his work. And his memory has survived the neglect of time and the ingratitude of man. Posterity has enveloped his brow with a halo of glory, and after the lapse of eight centuries the radiance of his personality remains undiminished.

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