In This Article Rashi's Commentary on the Bible

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Supercommentaries and Reception History
  • Rashi and Jewish-Christian Polemic
  • Rashi in Popular Jewish Culture

Jewish Studies Rashi's Commentary on the Bible
Devorah Schoenfeld
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 May 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199840731-0128


Rabbi Solomon ben Isaac (b. 1040–d. 1106), commonly known by his acronym Rashi, was the single most influential Jewish Bible commentator of the Middle Ages. Rashi’s works include a commentary on the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), a commentary on the Babylonian Talmud, and various Halachic works and responsa. Of these works, his commentaries on the Pentateuch and on the Talmud are by far the most commonly read and studied. He was a foundational influence on Jewish Biblical scholarship in the Ashkenazic world and also influenced Christian scholars such as Andrew of St. Victor and Nicholas of Lyra. He also wrote a commentary on the Talmud that is reproduced in the standard printed edition. Rashi’s work has been studied in many fields and from a variety of different perspectives. Since so many manuscripts exist of his work, his commentaries are often studied from a perspective of textual history. He is certainly a centrally important figure in the history of Jewish biblical interpretation, and an argument can be made for his importance in the history of Christian biblical interpretation as well. In particular, his commentary plays a central role in conversations about the “literal sense,” sensus literalis, pshat, pshuto shel mikra, and what these concepts meant to medieval Jews and Christians. Finally, because Rashi (along with Maimonides) is one of the best-known Jewish scholars of the Middle Ages, stories about Rashi and Rashi’s life are an important way in which modern Jews think about their medieval history.

General Overviews

There are a number of important books that look at Rashi’s life and work as a whole. Grossman 2006 is probably the most useful starting point for scholarship on Rashi, with comprehensive orientations to Rashi’s various writings, his historical time period, and some themes in his thought. Shershevsky 1982 focuses more on themes in Rashi’s work. Finally, Rashi: “Teacher of Israel”, an online exhibition from Hebrew University, provides an excellent overview and resource for approaching the study of Rashi. Mayer Gruber’s introduction to Rashi’s commentaries on the book of Psalms (see Gruber 2007, cited under Scholarly Editions) also provides an excellent introduction and orientation to his life and work.

  • Grossman, Avraham. Rashi: R. Shelomoh Yitsḥaḳi. Jerusalem: Merkaz Zalman Shazar, 2006.

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    The single most useful single-volume introduction to Rashi and his work. Grossman is one of the generation’s leading scholars of medieval exegesis and of Rashi in particular. He provides an overview of Rashi’s work in its variety of genres, plus an accessible orientation to much of the scholarship in the study of Rashi’s commentaries. He also attempts to synthesize Rashi’s theological and ethical views, as well as his life story and his social context.

  • Rashi: “Teacher of Israel”. Jewish National and University Library.

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    Online exhibition of Rashi manuscripts from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, accompanied by a highly accessible introduction to Rashi’s writings and to scholarship on them, both in Hebrew and English.

  • Shershevsky, Esra. Rashi: The Man and His World. New York: Sefer-Hermon, 1982.

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    Accessible introduction and overview both to the work of Rashi and what can be known about his time period from his writings, with a particular emphasis on his description of everyday life in his time.

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