Rashi is the most beloved biblical interpreter in the history of Judaism. The reissue of an English translation of his Torah commentary provides an opportunity to reflect on his legacy in biblical interpretation and to think about some hard issues that he first noted and that still trouble us today.1 Though Rashi lived nearly a thousand years ago, we’re still working on the problem of how to understand the “plain sense” of Scripture.
The name Rashi is an acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaqi, a French Jew who lived from 1040 to 1105 C.E. Rashi made his living by raising grapes and making wine—a fine trade for a Frenchman. More important than his wine, however, were his commentaries (in Hebrew) on almost every book of the Hebrew Bible and on the Babylonian Talmud. Rashi’s work became the basis for Jewish education and stimulated the writing of numerous commentaries on his commentaries. Even in traditional Jewish education today, Rashi is the chief path to knowledge of the Bible and Talmud.