Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040–1105), known as Rashi, is considered the greatest commentator on the Hebrew Bible and the Babylonian Talmud. He left his mark on a vast part of classical rabbinic literature, and even those who disagreed with his commentary could not disregard his opinions. To this day, almost all Bible and Talmud study begins with his commentaries. Because of his important contribution, he is regarded as one of the shapers of Judaism as a whole, and of Ashkenazic Judaism in particular.
Rashi was born in the city of Troyes in northern France. At twenty, he went to study at the important yeshivas in Mainz and Worms, Germany. In Mainz, he studied with Rabbi Yaakov ben Yakar and Rabbi Yitzchak ben Yehuda, among the greatest disciples of Rabbeinu Gershom, one of the first of the great sages of Ashkenaz, who was known as Me’or Hagola (" The Light of the Exile"). Thus, Rashi became a central link in the Ashkenaz tradition, connecting Rabbeinu Gershom and his disciples to the Tosafists, the first of whom were Rashi’s own grandsons and disciples.
Rashi returned to Troyes and served as a local rabbinical court judge and halakhic adjudicator for about five years. Apart from another stay in Worms, he lived in Troyes until his death, where he apparently made a living from commerce. Rashi founded a yeshiva in his city that attracted prominent scholars. He soon became famous as the head of a yeshiva and as a halakhic decisor. Rashi wrote his commentary on the Babylonian Talmud in notebooks, which were copied and distributed to other rabbinical scholars. Over the years, Rashi corresponded with the greatest rabbis in the Jewish world.
Rashi died in 1105 and was buried in his hometown.
Rashi’s influence is mainly due to his commentaries on the Bible and the Babylonian Talmud. Apart from these, he also composed liturgical hymns and lamentations. In his commentary on the Torah and many of the books of the Bible, Rashi relied mainly on rabbinic literature, and in his unique way combined those interpretations with the literal meaning of the text. His commentary has been accepted across Judaism and is often used to instruct even young children. Thanks to Rashi, many of the midrashim of the sages, which he included in his commentary, became canon in traditional Jewish culture. His commentary appears in every printed traditional Jewish edition of the Bible which inlcudes commentaries. Rashi’s commentary on the Torah is considered the first Hebrew book ever printed (among those featuring a date of publication).
Rashi’s Talmud commentary is considered the basic commentary on the Babylonian Talmud. Succinctly written, it explains in relatively simple terms the literal reading of the Talmud through an explanation of the issue at hand, without any attempt to address inconsistencies in relation to other places in the Talmudic text. An important aspect of Rashi’s enormous impact on the world of Talmudic study is that his commentary enables independent study of the Talmud, even without guidance or prior knowledge.
In early works containing commentary, elegant Sephardic script was used to distinguish Rashi's commentary from the biblical text, resulting in the script being known for generations as “Rashi script,” even though it is not in any way connected to Rashi.
The National Library retains a variety of historical materials relating to Rashi, his work, personality and central importance in the Torah world.