Rashi wrote commentaries on all the books of the
Bible. They are preserved in many manuscripts and printed
editions, the first of which, on the Pentateuch, was printed in
Reggio di Calabria in 1475. Usually his commentary accompanies the
Biblical text, but not all the printed commentaries attributed to
him are actually his. It is known that he did not write those on
Ezra, Nehemia, Chronicles and Job, from Chapter 40 verse 25
His exegesis on the Torah is based on literal and midrashic
interpretations. Most of his comments are quoted from rabbinic
sources and about a quarter of them are original. On the other
hand the majority of his commentaries on the Prophets and
Hagiographa are his own. The commentary on the Bible was widely
acclaimed for its content, language and style. It seems that the
manuscript now preserved in the Library of the University of
Leipzig, was copied most probably in the first half of the 13th
century, and based on the copy made by R. Shemaia, Rashi’s
disciple. It is noteworthy for its fine textual formulations. An
initial attempt to delve into the original or nearly original
version of the Pentateuch commentary was made by the famous
scholar Abraham Berliner in his interpretation of Rashi’s
commentary, Berlin, 1867. It is based on various important
manuscripts and early printed editions with citations of Rashi’s
sources and other annotations; it is, however, not complete.
His commentaries on only a small number of books of the Prophets
and Hagiographa have been published in critical editions. Grammar
and lexicography play a large role in his Biblical commentaries,
and his influence on later commentators in France was very
significant. Over 150 interpretations of Rashi’s works have been
published worldwide throughout the years, while some are still in
manuscript form. The most important commentators on Rashi are:
Eliyahu Mizrahi, Abraham Bukrat, the Maharal of Prague and
Shabbetai Bass, author of Siftei Hakhamim His commentaries were
studied with increasing interest also among Christian scholars
from the 13th century onwards . From the 17th century onwards they
have been translated into various European languages.
Commentary on the Babylonian Talmud
The crowning achievement of all of Rashi’s work is his
comprehensive commentary on the Babylonian Talmud. Both the
standard of Rashi’s commentary and its influence on the study of
the Talmud are incomparable and it has been the authoritative
source for many of the great commentators ever since the
commentaries were copied by his disciples in various versions with
glossaries and addenda written by Rashi himself. Rashi was given
the title of “Ha-Kunteres” (“Booklet”) by his pupils and by the
Tosaphists, because he wrote his thoughts in pamphlet form, called
“Kunteressim” (booklets). Rashi’s commentaries eclipsed the
Talmudic commentaries that preceded him, very few of which have
Printed editions of the commentaries on tractates Ta’anit,
Nedarim, Nazir and Horayot have been mistakenly attributed to him,
and were most probably written by the scholars of Mainz or others.
Likewise the printed commentary on Moed Katan is wrongly
attributed to him. Two tractates have partial Rashi commentaries:
Bava Batra (until 29b) and Makkot (until 20a). There is some
conjecture as to whether Rashi was the author of the commentary on
the Tractate Avot printed in the Siddur Tefila (daily prayerbook),
edited by Netanel ben Peretz Halfan, Trino, 1525.
Selections of Rashi’s Talmudic commentaries were integrated with
other commentaries on Yitzhak Alfasi’s work (Hilkhot ha-Rif) and
also those of the Ein Yaakov by Yaakov Ibn Haviv, as well as in
the Talmudic texts of early printed Spanish editions.
A comprehensive analysis of Rashi’s commentary on the Talmud was
written by Y. Frankel, Darkho shel Rashi be-perusho le-Talmud
ha-Bavli, Jerusalem, Magnes Press 1975.
Halakhic (legalistic) writings
Rashi wrote short halakhic rulings which were
incorporated into the works of his pupils. They collected and
edited his works from written or oral sources, some during his
lifetime, under his guidance, and some after his death. The
monographs on Orah Hayyim and Yore Dea were edited mainly by his
most devoted student R. Shemaia.
The following lists some of these works:
Mahzor Vitry: A compilation of various halakhic works from the
school of Rashi and from other sources edited by Simha of Vitry, a
prominent pupil of Rashi. A manuscript close to the original from
the mid 12th century exists in the editor’s own hand. (Sasson Ms.
535, today owned by V. Klagsbald). An expanded version of this
text, with later additions by the school of Rashi, appears in the
edition published by S. Halevy Horowitz, Berlin, 1896-1897.
Sefer Ha-Pardes: Includes responsa and halakhic rulings of Rashi
and others. The first edition was published in Constantinople,
1807, and in 1924 a critical edition was published by Ch. L.
Ehrenreich, Budapest. An abridged version of this work is also
extant, author unknown, called “Likkutei ha-pardes asher hibber
ha-nesher ha-gadol rabbenu Shelomo zz”l.” One of the 15th century
manuscripts is in the Jewish National and University Library
(Heb.80 6655, 60a-71a). This abridged edition first appeared in
Sefer ha-Orah: Includes halakhic rulings of Rashi with later
additions. A critical edition of this work was published by S.
Buber, Lemberg, 1805.
Siddur Rashi: Not specifically liturgical, this work includes
halakhic rulings of Orah Hayyim and is similar to the Mahzor Vitry
version in its original abridged form. It was first published by
S. Buber and edited by J. Freimann, Berlin, 1912. Parts of this
work entitled Sefer ha-Sedarim, were published by I. Elfenbein in
Horeb, 11 (1951), p. 123-156; jubilee volume in honor of S.
Federbush, Jerusalem, 1961, p. 52-68.
Issur we-heter: A collection of Halakha edited by Shemaia. This
compilation is preserved almost in its entirety. An incomplete
edition was published by J. Freimann, Berlin, Mekizei nirdamim,
Sheelot u-tshuvot (Responsa): Rashi responded to many inquiries
from the Diaspora. Hundreds of responsa have been preserved,
scattered among his pupils’ and their pupils’ various halakhic
texts, some of which are incomplete. His pupils or copyists
sometimes paraphrased his rulings. A collection containing 382 of
his responsa and those of his teachers was published by I.
Elfenbein, New York, 1943.
Piyyutim (liturgical hymns): Of the ten piyyutim attributed to
Rashi, seven selihot (penitential prayers) are undoubtedly his
work, three of which are included in various mahzorim and books of
selihot in the Ashkenaz tradition. Four others were published by
A. M. Habermann, Pyuttei Rashi, Jerusalem, 1941. In these selihot
we see mention of the persecutions the Jews endured during his
lifetime and their deep yearning for redemption. It is almost
certain that some of them were written in connection with the
massacres of 1096. Some of Rashi’s commentaries on the piyyutim
were preserved in various manuscripts embodied in the commentaries
of his pupil R. Shemaia.
His linguistic contributions: Rashi’s commentaries on the Bible
and Talmud are replete with linguistic innovations in grammar and
Hebrew lexicography. A comprehensive study of Rashi’s linguistic
contributions was published by I. Avineri, Hekhal Rashi, vol. 1-4,
Tel-Aviv, 1940-1960. Rashi’s special contribution was in his use
of French and German terms throughout the texts of the Biblical
and Talmudic commentaries, providing us with insight into the
usage of the vocabularies of those languages during the period.in
which he lived.