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House of Rashi
8 Lectures

Item #: S600

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Item Description:

For the past thousand years Rashi has been the teacher of the Jewish people. In fact, Jewish life without Rashi is unimaginable. This series of tapes discusses the life, times and history of Rashi and his descendants. Here you will gain significant understanding of the development of Ashkenazic Jewry and the feeling of pride and strength of heritage which comes with knowledge of and association to great people.

Individual lectures:

Early Life and Times - Rashi's birth "coincided" with the birth of Ashkenazic Jewry, and in this riveting lecture, Rabbi Wein chronicles the development of both. In a strange turn of events which is so characteristic of Jewish history, King Charlemagne favored the Jews and allowed them to settle in the Rhineland. While the Jews lived in relative peace, Torah study flourished, and as a young man, Rashi was able to reap the benefit at the great yeshiva of Worms. With anecdotes that show Rashi's self-sacrificing dedication to Torah in his formative years, we get a revealing glimpse into the dawning of the great commentator's genius.

Rashi as Commentator - Nobody in the Jewish tradition of Torah study, other than Moshe Rabbeinu himself, is as universally beloved as Rashi. Jews of all types rely on his commentaries: Ashkenazim and Sephardim, advanced Talmudic scholars and very young schoolchildren. With his incisive mind and life-long adherence to discovering the truth, Rashi distilled the wisdom of the Torah and left the Jewish world with nothing less than an unending treasure trove.

Rashi's Sons-in-Law - Though it is often unacknowledged, Rashi's prolific body of work is partly due to the efforts of his able assistants. His first helpers were his daughters, whom he personally educated as Torah scholars - an anomaly in his times. When these learned women became of marriageable age, Rashi sought the most elite of scholars for them, and their husbands likewise became partners in his dissemination of Torah. In a lecture that combines intellectual history with the warm feeling of family relationships, we see how one Jewish family can shape our entire people.

The Rashbam - The Rashbam was the oldest of Rashi's grandchildren and was closer to him than any of the others. His writings are therefore a transitional link in the chain between Rashi and the Baalei Tosfos. Based on the Rashbam's own accounts, Rabbi Wein describes the formative relationship between the Rashbam and his grandfather, and shows how he carried on his grandfather's ideas in Jewish law and scholarship amidst the harrowing years of the Crusades.

Rabenu Yacov Tam - Of all of Rashi's grandchildren, Rabenu Tam is probably the most famous. While Rashi clarified the meaning of Talmud for the Jewish people, Rabenu Tam invented the method by which Jews study it. From the legends surrounding his early childhood to the facts of his capture by the Crusaders, Rabbi Wein portrays the strong-willed Torah giant who led the Jewish people at one of the most precarious points in its history.

The Crusades - The achievements of Rashi and the Baalei Tosfos are all the more astounding when we understand them against the backdrop of the Crusades. Rabbi Wein paints the picture of the fanaticism and violence Jews faced in Europe and the Holy Land alike. Then he gives these events a Halachic context with examples of the Baalei Tosfos' legal rulings regarding the all-to-common problem of the era: Jewish apostasy.

The Ri of Dampiere - The Ri was a nephew and talmid of Rabenu Tam, but the two were polar opposites in temperament. Rather like Rashi in his gentle nature, he was particularly accepting of those Jews who wanted to return to a Torah life in spite of having converted to Christianity under the threat of the Crusaders. Yet at the same time, the Ri was a fierce proponent of Halachos that drew strong distinctions between Jews and Christians. With this foresight, he insulated the Jewish community from further Christian influence and preserved the Jewish people in catastrophic times.

Rabbis Elchonon, Ritzba, and Shimshon - The last of the successors to the House of Rashi lived in the final century of Torah life in France. As the violence of the Crusades intensified, many Jews sacrificed their lives rather than convert. Among these was Rabbeinu Elchonon, son of the Ri, who was burned at the stake at the age of 35. Yet his contribution to the Tosfos, as well as the writings of the Ritzba and Rabbeinu Shimshon after him, is an example of how love of Torah can shine even in the darkest of times.

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