Page 66 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 14

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RASHI AND THE PROBLEM OF JEWISH
ADJUSTMENT IN HIS TIME
B y S a m u e l
M.
B l u m e n f i e l d
A
MONG problems facing students of Rashi and other medieval
■ rabbinic personalities is how to distinguish between utter-
ances and expressions which represent Rashi’s own views and those
which reflect the views of his predecessors. Just as our contem-
poraries sometimes err in the direction of claiming credit for views
and ideas explored and even recorded by others (has not modern
scholarship been dubbed by cynics as legalized plagiarism?), so did
many of our ancestors err in the other direction, namely, of
ascribing views and opinions of their own to their great precursors.
Whether this was prompted by humility or by lack of courage to
offer their own opinions, or whether it purposed to obtain a wider
audience for their teachings, is not always clear. One thing is
certain — for many centuries there was the practice of what must
be described as “ legalized plagiarism” in reverse, on the accepted
principle of
הלות
ןליאב לודג
, which permitted and even encouraged
one to attribute his own views to a seasoned scholar or an estab-
lished authority.
Only by immersing oneself in the works and writings of Rashi
and others like him, can one hope to achieve the power of discern-
ment as to which expressions are Rashi’s own and which are mere
quotations from those who preceded him.
In seeking to ascertain which are Rashi’s expressions, we shall
be guided by the rabbinic dictum, “At first it is the Torah of God,
but after one has labored in the study of Torah, it is called his
own.” Through Rashi’s emphasis upon certain views of the
rabbis and through his reiteration and elaboration, one can
frequently deduce that their “Torah” became his own. Moreover,
for the purpose of this paper the writer has drawn upon some of
the writings of Rashi which, while less popular than his commen-
taries, are more reliable in mirroring his opinions, namely, his
approximately 360 Responsa. Unlike commentaries and exegetic
writings, Responsa represent a record of actual events and living
situations, and the decisions cited reflect in large measure the
opinions of those who rendered them.
As has been pointed out by authorities, there is nothing parochial
or provincial about Rashi. He is not confined to “ the four ells of
Halakha
” associated with the ghetto tradition of the centuries