Note: Blue highlighting has been applied to the words Elizabeth Dilling underlined in her exhibits. The text is unchanged from the original.
Michael L. Rodkinson: The History of the Talmud
THE SPANISH WRITERS. A BRIEF SURVEY OF THEIR WRITINGS RELATING TO THE TALMUD.
Although the aim of this, our work, is to give a history of the Talmud alone, not of the whole Jewish literature of that period (to which is devoted a work by Dr. Karpeles and others), we can not, however, skip over the writers of Spain and France of that time, who extended the literature according to the fundamental principles of the Talmud, and shine in history, the admiration of succeeding generations. We will not, however, speak at length of their work or examine it minutely, but merely mention the names; only those whose main work was elevated to Talmudic subjects we except from this rule of brevity, and shall speak about their work as far as is necessary for the purpose of this work.
The first of the distinguished men of Spain, whom the Babylonians honored with the title of "Resh Kalah" (synonymous with "Head of College"), was R. Hisdai b. Itzhak Ebn Spurt (915-970), who was counsellor and physician to the Caliph Abdul Rahman III, and he was the one who helped his co-religionists to rise from their degradation. Besides his diligence in other sciences, as the translation of the botanical books of Disseroridus, the Greek, for his sovereign, the Caliph, he carried on a correspondence with the Gaonim of the colleges of Sura and Pumbeditha, and through them succeeded in bringing scholars and books to his own country, and to found a college for Talmudical studies. He wrote the well known letter to the king of the Chosars [Khazars], in which his love for his co-religionists and his zeal for their welfare are manifested. Menahem b. S'ruk and Duns b. Labrat, the grammarians known through their polemics about the roots and the grammar of the Hebrew language, were invited by R. Hisdai to come to popularize the study of Hebrew. Jehud b. David Chilveg, Isaac b. Kapron and Isaac Giktalia were the disciples of Menahem, and Jehudah b. Shesheth was the disciple of Dun. These men by their controversies about the grammar carried it further and perfected the study. Jonah Ebn Ganah (1000-1050) surpassed even those,
for he composed seven books about grammar in Arabic and Hebrew which are preserved to the present time.
Samuel Hanagid (and the Nasi Ebn Nagdilah, 993-1055) was a patron of Jewish learning in Spain, as Ebn Spurt had been before him. He was the author of twenty-two books, but not even one of them survives completely. Even from his great book "Introduction to the Talmud" only a small portion is preserved, but this testifies to the greatness of his knowledge and the acuteness of his intellect. With all his adherence to the traditions and to the cardinal principles of the Talmud, he did not exclude the use of common sense and human judgment. He says: "Every comment in the Talmud on passages of Scriptures other than commandments we have to admit only so far as seems to be rational, but as for the rest, it is not authoritative." From this we see that in his ideas about the Hagadah of the Talmud, he went a step in advance of the Gaonim, Saadiah, and Hai. His poems and prayers in his works "Ben Thilim" and "Ben Mishle" are based on the tradition of the Talmud. But .of his "Ben Koheleth" nothing was preserved by us. He was held in great esteem by the contemporary learned men. Many wrote poems in his praise, among them is the "Orphan" (Jethoma), by R. Joseph b. Hisdai. The poets at that time used to say, "In the days of R. Hisdai, the Nasi, they began to twitter (in poetry) and in the days of Samuel the Nagid, they lifted their voice." (See App. No. 11)
He was succeeded by the lofty poet Solomon b. Gabirol, 1012-1070. (We need not here dwell on his biography and work, as Messrs. Senor Sachs and Salomon Munk wrote whole books about him.) In his time, Jekuthiel Ebn Hassau, who was high in the court of King Jahia Ibu Mundhir at Saragossa, was. also a patron of all Jewish learning, especially of ben Gabirol. The latter's poem, "Kether Malchuth" (Crown of Royalty), was very favorably received by all who bore the banners of the Talmudic and Kabbaldic studies, and also by Christian priests, so that it was translated into Latin by the priest Dominicus Gondizallo (115 0) and also into Hebrew by him, with the assistance of Johannis Abudalu (an apostate Jew). The fact that his name "Ebn Gabirol" was altered to Abizatrol or Abizabran has been illuminated by Salomon Munk.
Bahayi b. Joseph Ebn Pekira, Judge in Saragossa, his contemporary, is the author of the wonderful book " The Duty of Hearts " (Chobath Halbaboth) in Arabic, which has been translated by Samuel Ebn Tabun into Hebrew, and accepted as a guide in life by Israel everywhere they were found. (It has been translated also into German by Herr Baumgarten of Vienna.) This teacher Behayi absorbed himself wholly in the Talmud and gave it the preference to Arabic or Grecian philosophy. His object in this, his wonderful work, is the following: to conciliate morals with commandments and the duties of the heart with those of the other members of the body. The duty of the heart is purity of thought, that of the other members to carry out the commandments. (See App. No. 1z.)
Five sages bearing the name Isaac lived at that time, viz. 1. Isaac b. Reuben of Barcelona (1043), great in knowledge of the Talmud and an expert at translating. He translated the decisions of R. Hai Gaon, about buying and selling, from Arabic to Hebrew. 2. Isaac b. Jehudah Ebn Giath (1089), who composed prayers and ritual poems considered remarkable at that time. 3. Isaac b. Moses Sochni, who emigrated from Spain to the East, where he was qualified as Gaon and became the successor of R. Hai. Only his fame survives, his writings, however, are all lost. 4. Isaac b. Baruch Abudaly (1035-1094), who was a sage and astrologer to Caliph Al Mahmed. The latter made him Nasi over the Israelite communities in his domain, Seville. He wrote a commentary to difficult Halakhas in his book "Kupath Haruchim" (Book of Spices), which, however, he did not complete. 5. The greatest of all, Isaac b. Jacob Alphassi (1013-1103), who came from North Africa to Lucina (Alisa) and there founded a college for the study of the Talmud, in which he surpassed all his colleagues in Spain. Alphassi was the first to abridge the Talmud, compiling only the necessary Halakhas, transcribed textually. Sometimes he appended his opinions, and by this work is immortalized among all Israel in exile. In times of misfortune, when it was difficult to procure the Talmud, students occupied themselves with his work, called after him "Alphassi," to which they wrote many commentaries. His decisions, called" Questions and Replies of Hariph," have been accepted for all times. It is true that he wrote in Arabic and that it was translated into Hebrew. He also wrote
three great Halakhas with an extensive commentary in Arabic, which was also translated into Hebrew, as well as 320 of his decisions above mentioned. (One was recently published with a new translation from the Arabic.)
The spirit of deep research, distinguishing this Spanish period, is also found in his works. The most difficult subjects in the Talmud and all intricate questions he explains easily. He strove in his books to smooth the contradictions between the Torah and Wisdom, reconciling them. His decisions extend over all provinces of the Torah in all questions concerning law and judgment; to all laws, both written and traditional laws, his reasons, based upon sound logic, were stated in a concise and ingenious manner. In the same way, he also explains the Hagada, to bring it in conformity with reason. He, Alphassi, did not devote himself to theological philosophy and criticism of the Scriptures, like his contemporaries, but to Talmudical studies, thus giving an example to those thinkers not to presume to give their religion a philosophic garb. At his death, all Jewish scholars, wheresoever found, lamented him. R. Jehudah Halevi, whose muse began then to shine, mourned for him thus:
Mountains on the day of Sinai for thee quaked,
Moses b. Samuel Ebn Giktali and Jehudah Ebn Bilan (1070) were free thinkers in his age and his opponents, but many of those scholars who explained the Talmud by simple logic were his disciples. Among these was also Isaac b. Baruch Albalia, mentioned above. The greatest of his disciples, however, was Joseph Ebn Migash b. Mair (1076-1141), who succeeded to his position in his college and inherited his greatness in Talmudic wisdom. His new contributions to Talmudic study, called by him "Megilath Setharim" (The Revelation of Hidden Scrolls) and the queries and answers collected into one book under the title of "Questions and Replies of Ebn Migash," bear testimony to his ingenuity, loftiness of spirit and gentleness. (These books were reprinted the second time by us in 1870, in Warsaw,
with our preface and some remarks, but even this edition is already nearly out and scattered.) Most of his answers and questions were written in Arabic and translated later into Hebrew; only his explanations were written in Hebrew and in the Talmudic idiom. Particularly wondrous is his manner of examining all sides of a subject, so that not one possibility remains unconsidered.
As Ebn Migash was the greatest Rabbi after the death of his master, Alphassi, questions were addressed to him from all sides, and he, always following his disposition, answered them according to his inclinations, leniently. Let us cite one of his answers as an example
A question was addressed to him by one who had vowed to abstain from meat and wine till he shall have reached the Holy Land, and found the project too difficult to carry out, but could find no ground for repenting. Ebn Migash found for him a ground for repentance, that, while he vowed he undoubtedly was ignorant of a saying in the Talmud: Whoever afflicts himself is guilty against a life.
Many were the disciples who trod in Ebn Migash's footsteps and carried on their activity in his spirit. Among these was his son who succeeded him also in his college. Of his contemporaries, who distinguished themselves as philosophers or poets, it is proper to mention Rabbi Joseph Ebn Zadok of Cordova (1070-1149), author of "Olam Katan" (Microcosm), a religious philosophy in which he is of the opinion (see App. No. 11) that man must know himself in order to attain to the knowledge of Divinity. The rabbi who was his predecessor at Cordova, Joseph b. Jacob Ebn Sahl (1103), was a poet and ritual author. (See App. No. 12.) In the north of Spain were also then found scholars and poets; Abraham b. Hyya, a minister in a Mahometan ruler's court, was a great astronomer and mathematician, who wrote four books on astronomy, three of which were printed, viz. : "The Form of the Earth" (T'urath Hoaretz), "The Book of Leap-Years" (Sepher Haibur), of the third, only the latter part, treating of mathematics, optics, and astronomy was printed. Next to him is Jehudah b. Barzilar, author of the book "Hoetim" (The Times).
We have reached to the three great poets, who enjoy a world-wide renown, Moses b. Ezra, Abraham b. Meir Ebn Ezra,
and Jehudah Halevi, all of whom were bearers of the banner of the Talmud, and contributed to diffusing its ideas and morals among the nation. We think it, however, superfluous to expatiate on them, as they are well-known to every cultured person, and, as many books have been written about them at different epochs, we cannot refrain, however, from giving briefly their biographies, as far as they bear on no subject of this work.
The dates of the birth and death of the first of these, Moses b. Ezra, are unknown to us: it is known only to us that he lived later than ben Gabirol. His opinions in his poems and other works vacillate. He composed ritual poems and lamentations, which have a place in the prayer-books of the Spanish Jews; also the "Arugath Habossem" (Bed of Spices), on theological philosophy, and the "Sepher Hassichoth V'hazichronoth" (Book of Discourses and Reminiscences), about the poems of ben Gabirol and his character.
The second, Abraham Ebn Ezra, was one of the most wonderful phenomena of his age. His commentaries on the Bible, his poems and ritual poems, are known to everyone; but the contemporary scholars found it impossible to know his real opinions, nor .can modern scholars fathom them.
The third, Jehudah Halevi, the father of poets, before whom none lived equal to him, and who knows whether after him any one like him will live. Besides inspiring with a very exalted national spirit every reader of his poems and lamentations, he powerfully defended the Talmud in his book the "Chosar," [Khazar] where the eloquent defender of the Talmud is represented by the disputant arguing with the King of the Chosars, and which to the present time is a shining example of compositions of this kind. (A lengthy account the reader can find in the works of Karpeles.)
After them is distinguished Abraham b. David Halevi (Ebn Daud) who died as a martyr (1180). He defended the Talmud in his book "Emuna Rama" (Exalted Faith) and in his great work "Hakabala" (The Tradition), in which he powerfully argues against all the deniers of tradition, and shows them in the wrong; supporting his logical arguments by historical facts, proving the continuance of tradition from the time of Moses to that time. In his polemics against the Karaites, he is so irritated that he styles them "dumb dogs."
With Moses b. Maiman, the Spaniard, called by all "Maimonides" or "Rambam" (1135-1204), the Spanish period concludes. With him died the mental activity in Spain, after having flourished there for three centuries. About this great man we have nothing to add to what the historians who have preceded us have written about his life, and disputed about his opinions. (The reader desiring minute information is referred to the Life of the Rambam, "Taldoth Horambam," by I. H. Weiss, and also Karpeles' work.) But we do not think it superfluous to remark on two points, viz.: z. That the opinions of Maimonides are found to differ in the three different periods of his life: thus, in his commentary on the Mishnayoth, they are not the same as in his work "Yad Hachazaka," nor are they similar to that of his last work, "More Nebuchim," which he wrote in the evening of his life. For in all of them we see a development of his ideas according to the increase of his studies and knowledge; it is not true as some affirm that there is no change in his opinions. We have made it evident, long ago, in our book "Phylacterien-Ritus," that his decisions in his "Yad Hachazaka" or "Mishna Torah," do not accord with those in his commentary on the Mishnayoth; and, it is needless to say, that his statements in the "More" are at variance with things said in all his former works. And in truth, this is the case with all great thinkers, that they can not remain at a stand still from their youth to their old age, and to this we may apply [Job, xxxii. 7]. "Multitude of years shall make wisdom known."
2. That Maimonides has omitted all references in the Talmud which treats of witchcraft, demons, interpretation of dreams, etc., not only because they were considered by him as vain superstitions and follies, for this reason alone he would not have ventured to omit them, in spite of the Talmud, for he left all that is found in the Talmud of Halakhas and moral Hagadas, even with which he himself could not agree; but his motive was, that, in his opinion, they had originally not been found in the Talmud, and that only the later men inserted them, according to their own ideas, for whatever purpose it might have been. (I. H. Weiss has insinuated this long ago, and it seems that the probability tends that way.)
So also, about the apology advanced by many for the words
of Maimonides at the head of his work "Mishna Torah," that he had chosen this title, because if a man first read the Pentateuch, and then this work, he will know the entire Oral Law, and need read no intermediate book - that by these words he did not mean that his work should be a substitute for the Talmud, etc., etc.; we do not think this apology needful, even if he meant this. For as Maimonides had observed that much had been superadded to the Talmud, also things opposed to his general opinions - no wonder if he wished to prevent those who could not distinguish between the good and the evil, from reading the spurious passages, to which they would attach as great importance as to the Talmud itself. After he had sifted it, and arranged all that is found in that sea, the Talmud, in fourteen volumes, of his "Mishna Torah," there is no pre-emption or oddity in these words, whereby he merely sought the real good of the students.
To enumerate in detail all his books, writings, epistles, polemics and apologies, we think superfluous here; as all biographical and critical facts have already been given in detail in the above-mentioned works. We will only remark, that after all the great things which Maimonides had done and accomplished, he did not attain his object. As the study of the Talmud did not cease in any of the colleges, and, on the contrary, they who desired to criticize Maimonides, brought the rabbis to study yet more profoundly and attentively the Talmud, and to add new commentaries, decisions of Halakhas, etc., etc.
THE SCHOLARS OF GERMANY AND OF NORTHERN FRANCE, AND WHAT THEY CONTRIBUTED TO THE STUDIES OF THE TALMUD.
At the time, when Talmudic study flourished in Spain, and made progress, and diffused itself in all corners of the earth, shone "the luminary of the exile" in Germany, who constructed a strong fortress around the Talmud, in his great wisdom - which was accepted in all places of the exiled as though canonical, and which not only contributed to strengthen the Talmud, but also to prevent all its adherents from perishing. Like Rabban Johanan b. Zakkai formerly, when he saw that
the end of Jewish civic independence approached, founded by his wisdom a Jewish spiritual kingdom, which nothing could ruin, and by saving from the jaws of that lion, Vespasian, Yanmia and its sages, saved the existence of the Jewish people itself; so did Gershon b. Jehudah who came from Carraibe to Mayence, where his great teacher Jehudah b. Meir resided. This most important task he found to be his prohibition, which he made in the name of the Talmud, and at once; all Israel (in Europe) hailed this luminary, and accepted without protests or hesitation, his prohibition, and made it a permanent law.
He saw and understood that the Jews scattered among Christian nations, among whom divorce is prohibited and polygamy regarded as a sin, will not exist long, if they persist to permit themselves these things, according to their laws, and, as he had not the power to forbid what was permitted in the Torah expressly, he strove to remove the causes leading to divorce; and thereby he made his co-religionists so far like the Christians that they should be able to live side by side.
He decreed, on pain of excommunication, and without revocation or qualification, that polygamy be prohibited to every Israelite (see App. No. 13), and only monogamy should be legal, and as long as the first wife lives, it is prohibited to add to her another, in the capacity of wife or concubine. Thereby, the main cause for divorce was also removed, but he did not content himself with this decree alone, but added thereto a decree opposed to the Pentateuch, that divorce cannot take place without the assent of the divorced wife, if the man and his wife should find it impossible to live together, then only if the woman is also willing, the husband can divorce her. Whereas, till then, the woman was dependent on the will of her husband, for good or for ill. It is superfluous for us to expatiate on the consequences of these two decrees, or rather reforms of how much utility they have been to social life and the feeble sex; as every thinking man can understand this.
Added to these prohibitions, he permitted Jewish apostates, who are penitent, to return to their faith, and also prohibited, on pain of excommunication, to open a strange man's letter and read it, without the assent of the person to whom it is addressed.
His energy, great wisdom, and deep observation of his
nation's life, and strong wish to ensure its existence, we can see from these reforms, which we do not find made by any rabbis of his predecessors; and he was justly called, afterwards, "The Luminary of the Exile," as he illuminated in truth the eyes of all Israelites and gave to them a new life. He composed commentaries on several tracts of the Talmud, which became distinguished in his age, and the commentator on the Torah, Rashi (whom we are going to mention) borrowed from him much.
R. Machir, his brother (1030), was also a Talmudic scholar and the author of a Talmudic dictionary. Several ritual poets were also found in Germany and Northern France, as Meshulam bar Kleinmus, R. Simeon, b. Isaac, b. Abun of Mayence, who lamented the miseries of their paytonim in ritual poems and prayers for mercy (Sli'choth), but their work in the study of the Torah was small; and only in Metz and Mayence in Germany, and Rheims, Loiret, in Northern France and Narbonne, Montpellier and Beziers in Southern France were many scholars, whose active occupation was mental activity in the field of the Talmud. (The college of Talmud in Narbonne was erected by R. Machir, who had arrived from Babylonia to France; and in the second half of the eleventh century came from this college R. Moses Hadarshon, known as the commentator on some tracts in the Talmud, and some books of Scripture; and later generations drew much on his wisdom, and made many quotations from him. All or most of his writings are collected in one work entitled "Breshith Rabthi." R. Joseph Tob Alm (Baufils, of Lemans), who has edited and systematized many subjects and speculations of the Talmud, a list of the Tanaim and Amoraim, and the answers of the Gaonim, and R. Elijah the Elder, both men of that age, were esteemed as poets, but did not approach those of Spain.
What is worthy of notice, considering the various countries at that age, is that whereas the scholars of Spain (see App. No. 14) exerted their great powers and displayed their knowledge in collecting Halakhas of the Talmud, the scholars of Germany devoted themselves wholly to collecting Hagadas and Midrashim, so that various compilers rose. Of the distinguished compilers of Midrash are: R. Moses of Narbonne, R. Jehudah of Toulouse, R. Simeon, author of "Yalkut
Simoni," where he compiled words of wisdom, morals and Hogada, from fifty various ancient works and arranged them according to the portions of the Pentateuch. This Yalkut is a comprehensive reference book for Agadic lore, and drove out of the field the Agadic compilation "Lekach Tob," or "Psigtha Zutrha" by R. Tobiah b. Eliezer, his contemporary, who lived in Greece (Byzantium) at that time.
We will skip over a number of lecturers and Pashtanim for want of space, and we will come to our great teacher, through whom only we are enabled to comprehend the Talmud, and to read it and study it, namely: R. Soloman b. Isaac of Trayes, called (by using the initials) "Rashi" (1040-1105). He was the first who gave a complete piece of work in his commentary on the Talmud. He is one of the most wonderful phenomena given by Nature, perhaps once in thousand years; his advantage over Maimonides, his peer, is in the fact that he met with general acceptation in the whole world, and no one presumes to study the Talmud without him. The influence he has on Jewish students has met with no opposition or discontent. The generations subsequent to Rashi, styled him "Parshandatha" (a proper name in Scripture), that is, "Explainer of the Law." Justly was he called thus; in truth no man arose after him with such ability to shed light on the intricacies of the law or on obscure passages in Scripture.
His comprehensive intellect embraced that mighty and eternal structure, the whole vast province of the theological literature of Israel. By his commentaries he has introduced common sense into the study of the vastest and profoundest subjects. The study of the tracts lacking his commentary, although many different other men have attempted to supply the deficiency, gives us many pains and much trouble, till we come to understand the real meaning. As what Rashi elucidates in a few words, or sometimes even by one word added to the text before us, has to be commented upon by others in many laborious lines to make the student understand the simple meaning of the Talmud.
The life of Rashi has been written by many scholars, who have discussed at length his commentaries, legal decisions, and ritual poetry. The latest, A. H. Weiss, in the periodical "Beth Talmud" and in separate pamphlets. We think it therefore
superfluous to repeat them, as this is not our task here. We have to remark, however, on several points relating to the Talmud here, on which those scholars have left something for us to add : An examination of Rashi's commentaries on the Talmud, on the Bible, and legal decisions in his "Hapardes," and so also his ritual poems, will show that they differ in their nature totally. In his commentary on the Talmud, which general criticism places above his other writings, we see that he is very cautious to decide any Halakha, and to draw from the statements of the Talmud definite conclusions as to a law or custom. We do not remember in his whole commentary on the Talmud, any place where he should decide "that such a Halakha prevails," or even, "so was the custom in his days," as we find on many occasions in the commentaries of his disciples "Tosphath," and we have long ago shown in our work about Phylacteries (p. z4), that he has interpreted an obscure passage in the Talmud in contradiction to the custom and Halakha accepted among the Gaonim, because, according to his method, it is the plain meaning of the passage (see there, p. 30). Everywhere he bewares of dialectics, and of contradictions between some passages of the Talmud and others, but he explained the subject of the passage according to its simple meaning in its own place. In case of Agadoth he also was careful to give only an explanation of the words, literally without any remark or opinion of his own, even hinted. This is his custom in his whole commentary on the Talmud. Where he found the text corrupted, he corrected it according to his opinion, and in accordance to his profound knowledge of the Talmud, of its style and language; and, if necessary, removed the old version, not fearing additions or eliminations, provided the real meaning of the Talmud he comprehended, without resorting to forced and farfetched reasoning.
His commentary on the Bible, however, is different, as mostly he construes according to the Halakha; i.e., as the sages had explained the biblical passages in the Talmud and Midrashim, without regard to the fact that the literal meaning of the biblical texts often does not bear out these constructions. Often he was not averse to interpret the text according to the Talmudic interpretation, even when its meaning is manifestly contrary thereto by all the rules of language. His
object in this is unknown to us, and it can only be conjectured that he did not like that his commentary should be at variance with the Talmudic interpretations and conclusions, which correctness and justice he forces himself in his commentary on the Talmud to make manifest.
Not so in his decisions; he endeavors always to interpret the laws leniently (mildly), and is averse to rigor. There he also avoids dialectics, tries not to attain his object by strange and eccentric reasonings, but is only intent on finding the real deep meaning of the law, and to interpret it as mildly as it is in his power. It is true, that most of his decisions are written by his disciples, and we cannot find there that clearness of language and wonderful felicity of expression which he displays in his two above-mentioned commentaries. The Replies of the Gaonim and their works served to him also as a guide, but he did not tread in their footsteps blindfold, but he sifted their statements and construed them ingeniously into accordance with his own opinion; this we witness in his book Pardes,* which has been accepted as a great authority for all Poskim deciders of the law subsequent to him.
We do not possess his commentary on all the tracts of the Talmud, for of three tracts we know with certitude that the commentaries are not his; and in the case of other tracts, criticism is doubtful whether they are from his pen. And it may be that they got lost in the course of time, either because he did not compose his comments on the Talmud in the natural order, but in the order in which they were studied in the great college at the head of which he was, and whither pupils flocked from all places of the earth, after the decease of the celebrated scholars of Lorraine; or perhaps he left this world before he had completed his commentary on the whole Talmud, as he did not complete the commentary on the Bible, for those on the books of Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah, and a part of the commentary on the books of Ezekiel and job have not issued from his pen, though they bear no name, for they are easily distinguishable from his version in their style and by their nature.
What Rashi had done to the Talmud, his disciples have
* It was also reprinted by us at Warsau, 1870, with our preface and a few notes.
done to his commentary, which they have surrounded by comments and remarks on the margins, sometimes to make plainer his meaning, and sometimes they also made additions to amplify his statements by Agadas and Halakhas, and in the course of time they crept into his own commentary and were interpolated into the words of Rashi, but to separate them from his own words it is very difficult, even for the lancet of sharp criticism.
Modern criticism has rightly thought that Rashi (Isaacides) began his labor of the commentary on the Talmud, which was composed gradually, by the lectures which he delivered to the students. After this he turned to the Midrash, and from it passed to the books of Scripture. And as soon as his commentary was heard among the living, an echo sounded in the camp of Israel that if not Isaacides who laid his hand upon it to investigate and to commentate it, it would remain almost neglected as its brother, the Palestinian Talmud. No wonder, therefore, that after a short time, some fifty commentaries on the commentary of Rashi sprung up, which examine nicely every word and syllable that has proceeded from him; and the last, Kabbalist, R. Samson, of Astropol, was not incorrect when he said in his book, "Likute Shoshanim" ["Collections of Roses"], that every drop of ink that has come forth from Rashi's pen it is needful to sit seven days and to examine with one's whole attention.
Thus while Alphassi illuminated Spain by his elucidations of the Halakhas, another sun, Rashi, rose also in France to shed yet more light, to comment on the Talmud, its Halakhas and Agadas. And the latter had more success, in so far that his commentary was accepted in all the world (among Christian scholars also, as has avowed Nicholas de Lyra, some two hundred years after Rashi's decease, that to the right understanding of the words and simple meaning of the texts, Rashi's commentary has led him) by universal assent. And therein also is France superior to Spain, that though the latter has been studying diligently Torah, even from the ancient times, while the colleges at Sura and Pumbeditha existed yet, and after their fall, assumed preeminence in the usages and literature of Israel, their scholars could never agree, and were forever disputing. But in France, since Rashi's commentary
began to shine, no voice dissented from the universal approval, and those who sometimes were at variance with him, did not withhold the great honors which were justly due to him, and endeavored to reconcile their own opinions with his. For two hundred years continuously, after Rashi's decease, his disciples were diligent at the holy work of spreading the study of the Talmud and a correct understanding of the great work of their master. They called their labors only "Additions" (Tosphoth), i.e., their thoughts which suggested themselves to them to add to his commentary, and to explain it.
THE DOCTORS OF FRANCE. AUTHORS OF THE TOSPHOTH.
Through the Tosphoth which were begun by Rashi's own descendants as his two sons-in-law, Meir b. Samuel and Jehudah bar Nathan and the sons of the first Samuel and Jacob Tam, the activity of the scholars of France and Germany assumed great proportions and was exalted, so that all Israel in the Middle Ages accepted them unanimously, and in the course of time the numbers of their disciples and the pupils of their disciples increased. So that more than two hundred great Talmudists are known to the historian, but whom it is needless to enumerate here, except a few which we deem necessary for our work.
His grandson, R. Samuel b. Meir, or Rashbam (1085-1158), did not content himself with the commentary of his grandfather on the Bible, as well as on the Talmud, and tried his strength to explain them after his own method, that is, according to their deep literal meaning, and leaving ingenious but forced constructions to dialecticians, even when the literal interpretation will thus be in direct contradiction to the Halakha (see App. No. 15) however, without any opposition to the traditions expressed. He only added in his commentary "according to the deep literal meaning," but leaves one to think that even the traditional interpretation about the Halakha can find place. To the Hagada, however, which tries to interpret biblical texts according to its legends, he opposes with all the strength of his intellect, and makes manifest their contra-
diction, so as to demolish the Hagada to the foundation. In his commentary on the Talmud, however, he is given to lengthy reasonings and dialectics and also endeavors to arrive at decisions of Halakhas, which his grandfather took care to avoid. Whoever sees critically, Rashi's commentary on Tract Baba Bathra up to 29b, and from there onwards, Rashbam's commentary which is its substitute from that place onwards, will be astonished at the great difference between them, if but at the relative quantities of Rashi's comments and Rashbam's.
From his commentaries and compositions we see that he had much knowledge of diverse languages, and of the manners and customs of nations and their modes of life, and gave human reasons for many commandments of the Pentateuch. In Northern France his commentaries were accepted in the colleges and it became their main authority. But his younger brother, Jacob, styled "Rabenu Tam," devoted his whole mind to studies of the Talmud chiefly, and he became the center of the authors of the Tosphoth, to him flocked men with questions from all ends of the earth, to whom he was as an oracle. Justly we may entitle him the Pillar of the Talmud. He went to the depths of the sea of the Talmud, and made it his first task to reconcile apparent contradictions therein. He likewise mended many corrupted texts in the Talmud, though of him it has been said that he decreed on the pain of excommunication not to amend any text in the Talmud, and in many places he disagrees with his grandfather. Aside from this he did not at one's own conjecture, neglect commentaries on Scriptures and grammatical studies, and decided in favor of Menachem b. Sruk against Duns b. Labrat in his book "Hahakhraoth" (Reconciliations); he also tried his ability for poetry. As his biography has been written by the learned A. H. Weiss in a separate book, it is unnecessary to expatiate on it.
Here is the place to remark that in late generations the second pair of phylacteries which pietists put on after the prayer, have been styled after him on account of two or three words which he wrote in his commentary on an obscure passage in Tract Mena'hoth in opposition to Rashi's commentary, on account of a hair-splitting discussion in the language of the Gemara, though he had never the intention to decide so the
Halakha, as his grandfather Rashi had also not intended in his commentary on the Halakha, still those phylacteries are called after him. In truth neither the one nor the other was used yet as phylacteries, as testifies the greatest among the authors of Tosphoth, R. Isaac the Elder (as this is explained in one book on Phylacteries).
Among the faithful disciples whom Pashi had in the college at Troy it is proper to mention R. Joseph b. Simeon Kara who was revealed to us recently by modern criticism; and R. Joseph Bchor Shor who was a disciple of Rabenu Tam, and composed a commentary on the Pentateuch in the spirit of that of Rashbam. The other commentators on Scripture among the authors of the Tosphath and their disciples, however, as the author of "Hagan" (The Garden) a commentary on the Pentateuch, which is to be found in two different versions, and some more commentaries by R. Hezekiah b. Manoah, R. Isaac Halevi, R. Jehuda b. R. Eliezer, R. Jacob d'Illesques, do not cling to the principle of literal interpretation, but of Drash and Mysticism. Rashi's commentary was, however, their model. The chiefs of the authors of Tosphoth in the period of from 1167 till 1300 were : R. Isaac b. Samuel, called R. Isaac the Elder, from Dampirere, the nephew of Jacob Tam, his son Elchanan, Eliezer b. Samuel ("Ram") of Metz, author of "Sepher Yereim" (Book of the God-Fearing), Isaac b. Abraham, Junior (Ritzba), his brother, Simsan of Chanz (Rashba), his great labors are called Tosphoth of Chanz, Jehudah b. Isaac from Paris, called Sirlian, Ephraim b. Isaac from Reugspurk, and Nathan Official, who will be mentioned by us further in a separate chapter. Among the latest of the authors of the Tosphoth, however, we may name the Rabbi Moses of Caucy, author of "Smag" who is also mentioned in Tosphoth thrice (Berakhoth, 14b, 43a, Aboda Zaruh, 13a), and R. Jacob of Courbel to whom have been attributed the questions and answers from Heaven, and we doubt whether Isaac of Vienna author of the well-known book "Or Zarua" (Diffused Light), who also lived at that time, has also been mentioned in Tosphoth (see our work on Phylacteries, p. 140), by the name of R. Isaac - simply, as not every time when the name R. Isaac - barely is mentioned in Tosphoth, R. Isaac the Elder is meant.