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The Jewish Bible was already old during that amazing century in which Jesus, Gamaliel, Hillel and Paul lived, and which saw the destruction of the Second Temple, the rise of rabbinical Judaism, and the emergence of Christianity. Until that time all Biblical scholarship was oral, but after the destruction of the Temple and everything else that was occurring, rabbis--which is to say, scholars--began to write commentaries on the Bible and other kinds of works. Rashi became one of the greatest rabbinical scholars, not just of his day, but of any day.
This biography was written over a century ago, and it reads like it. In other words, its slow going, and generally not organized as we expect today. On the other hand, if you work through it, you will be well rewarded. Author Liber places Rashi in the Jewish community of his day and time, and just as importantly, places that Jewish community in the context of Christian Europe. Liber tells us about the man, his character, and what we do know of the kinds of details we want in a biography. Liber also relates some of the fantastic tall tales and legends that survive about Rashi, and if he does so wryly, its because he realizes those kind of tales tell us something important too about a man and his times too.Read more ›
In writing a review, I know that I have essentially two audience members - those who know Rashi quite well and those that have never heard of Rashi before.
For those of you unfamiliar with Rashi, he was an 11th century rabbi who wrote responsa, Torah commentary, Talmud commentary and died in 1205. Maurice Liber has many chapters devoted to his Torah commentary and discussion thereof. If you are Jewish, this can give you a taste of Rashi before studying further. If you are not Jewish, this makes for a fascinating study in medieval philosophy as well as the tensions between Christian and Jewish communities. Maurice Liber notes many instances where Rashi purposefully comments on a psalm or a passage in a way that illegitimizes the Xian viewpoint. In other places, he's merely commenting as a commentator without the tensions.
If you are familiar with Rashi, this is still a fascinating book. Written in 1905 with a completely different set of biases (Liber praises Rashi for inspiring Mendelssohn for example), this book at times feels like the antithesis of those Artscroll biographies that make you suspect that the great sages never went to the bathroom much less read the secular newspapers of their days.Read more ›
There wasn't enough material about Rashi's actual writings and his contributions to Jewish thought. However, it is a difficult subject and I appreciate the author's attempts.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a good work overall. What more could be known about a man who lived almost a thousand years ago? Especially helpful is to know that Rashi spoke so clearly and simply.Published 23 months ago by David Clem
I am in the middle of reading this book, and it is kind of boring and some of the text can get repetitive, but it is very informing on understanding the time and mind of Rashi.Published on June 11, 2014 by Amazon Customer
For those who have a sincere interest in the sages, this is a worthwhile read. If a book adds only one gem to my crown of knowlrdge, I deem it justified.Published on March 10, 2014 by Amazon Customer
Excellent reading material for any droid user. I found it and am finding it very informative and enlightening pertaining to Jewish Chinuch.Published on January 11, 2014 by Rabbi Aminadav Hinton
I had to give this book a 3. It is worth reading and is informative however I'd not classify it as a biography but a critique. Read morePublished on December 23, 2009 by Sir Lancelot