Rashi Is More Than A Commentator


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Every Shabbos, Jewish adults are supposed to read the parshah twice along with Onkelos’s Aramaic translation once. Since the purpose of this obligation is to understand the parshah, one halachic opinion (quoted in Shulchan Aruch) maintains that it can be fulfilled by studying the parshah with Rashi since Rashi explains everything on the simplest level.

Rashi (1040-1105) was not the first great Torah scholar to write a commentary on the Torah. Nevertheless, he is universally considered the father of all Torah commentators. The Lubavitcher Rebbe often noted that Rashi intended his commentary to be understood even by a five-year-old starting to study Torah (a “ben chamesh l’mikra”). Rashi uses superbly concise and simple wording and usually selects the choicest of our Sages’ explanations that elucidate the text on a simple level.


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Rashi, though, also often alludes (without confusing less profound students) to deeper explanations, even those associated with Kabbalah. His classic commentary is so admired that even great authorities who sometimes disagreed with him on various points still lavished praise on it. Indeed, hundreds of super-commentaries have been composed on Rashi.

Rashi wrote his commentary to educate Jews of all ages and levels – not only to understand the Torah but also the fundamentals of our faith and mold their attitudes. For example, on the first word of the Torah, “Bereishis,” Rashi quotes a Midrash that divides the word into two, “Beis reishis” – alluding to two entities that Scripture calls “reishis – first”: the Torah and the Jewish people. In other words, the universe was created for the sake of the Torah and for the sake of the Jewish people – i.e., in order that we Jews study and observe the Torah.

This simple statement demands a total reorientation. It awakens us to the realization that we don’t just happen to live in this world and happen to have certain obligations. These obligations are the entire purpose of creation. When a child learns this fact at an early age, his or her whole upbringing changes. It revolves around a higher purpose. Torah and mitzvos become central; he or she feels a personal obligation to study Torah and observe its mitzvos for the sake of Hashem who created the universe for that purpose.

And as the child grows older, he or she also learns that, by fulfilling the Torah, he or she elevates the entire world to a higher level, the ultimate purpose being to raise it to the point at which Moshiach comes, launching a wonderful era that will benefit all of humankind.

As one studies Rashi through the year, one encounters many such gems.

(Based, in part, on teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe)


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