This week’s Torah portion is the first one – Bereishit. As such, I thought it would be appropriate to write about the importance of learning Chumash with the commentary of Rashi.
Learning the Parsha of the Week
The Talmud says (Brachot 8a
) “A person should always complete the Torah portion with the community by reading the Chumash once and the Targum (Aramaic translation) once.”
Some say that the translation must specifically be the one written by Onkelos the convert which is based on Oral traditions that go back to Mount Sinai (See Tosfot D.H. Shnayim Mikra
Others say that one who learns the Chumash with another translation or interpretation which explains every word also fulfills their obligation (see Rosh on ibid
The Shulchan Aruch rules (O.C. 285:2
) that studying Chumash with Rashi is like studying the Targum (translation). The Magen Avraham (3
) explains that this is because Rashi’s interpretations are based on the Talmud. The Taz (2
) adds that the interpretation of Rashi explains the Chumash more than the translation of Onkelos.
The Alter Rebbe explains (Shulchan Aruch HaRav 285:2 and Kuntreis Acharon 1)
that one should read the text of the Parsha a third time with the accompanying interpretation of Rashi. This is because Rashi does not explain every word of the verse (as does the translation of Onkelus). If one were to only read the Rashi one will not have read a complete translation of the verse.
A G-d Fearing Person
In practice the Shulchan Aruch writes that one who is G-d fearing should study both the translation of Onkelos and the interpretation of Rashi.
Leads to Fearing G-d
The Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe explained that since the Shulchan Aruch writes that a G-d fearing person will study Chumash with Rashi we can infer that if one learns Chumash with Rashi it will lead to his fearing G-d (Sefer HaShichot 5702 page 28).
Here is some information about Rashi from the Shem HaGedolim by the Chidah (Rabbi Yosef David Azoulay)
in the entry of Rashi (in the letter shin).
- Rashi’s father, Rabbi Yitzchak, was a Torah scholar. We see this from the fact that Rashi quotes his father in tractate Avodah Zarah.
- Rashi’s teacher was Rabbi Yakov ben Yakar – a student of Rabbeinu Gershom Me’or HaGolah. He also studied under Rabbi Yitzchak HaLevi.
- Rashi was a descendant of Rabbi Yochanan HaShandlar (Seder HaDorot) who was, in turn, a descendant of King David.
- Rashi fasted 613 fasts before writing his interpretation on the Torah. As a result of these fasts he was able to write an interpretation which includes the deepest secrets of the Torah hidden within its text (Rabbi Menachem Azriah of Fano in Mamar Ha’Ittim).
Rashi – The Head of the Commentaries
According to an ancient manuscript (quoted in the Shem HaGedolim) Rashi is considered “the main commentary that explains the text. Even if many (later commentaries) argue on him, one will find the answers to those questions by examining his words carefully… Only rare individuals appreciate his quality. He answers bundles of questions with a single word.”
Saves from Thoughts of Sin
Rabbi Pinchos of Koritz instructed (Imrei Pinchas, Sha’ar 5, ot 9) that one should always have a Chumash with Rashi’s commentary near him so that he can learn from it at all times. As the verse says [regarding the king] (Deut. 17:19
) “It should be with him so that he can read it throughout his life so that he will learn to fear G-d.” This will also save one from sinful thoughts.
Wine of the Torah
The Alter Rebbe (author of the Tanya and Shulchan Aruch HaRav) once said (quoted in HaYom Yom, 29th of Shevat)
“Rashi’s commentary on Chumash is the ‘wine of Torah.’ It opens the heart and uncovers one’s essential love and fear of G‑d.”
Ticket into Rashi’s Yeshivah
The Sar Shalom of Blez
said (quoted in Pikdecha Darashti by Rabbi Shmuel David Belz, page 48) that one who learns the parsha with Rashi every week is guaranteed that in the World of Truth he will (at least) be in the Yeshivah of Rashi.
The Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe said (Sefer HaSichot 5705, page 97) “Learning the [daily] section of Chumash and Rashi is very important. (This is known as Chitas
.) Once someone came to the Tzemach Tzedek
and was crying over the fact that he has difficulties (תקלות) [in serving G-d]. The Tzemach Tzedek said to him, ‘Learn Chumash with Rashi and you will not have difficulties.’”
The Light of Moshiach
“Listen Jewish people, learning a section of Chumash every day with Rashi reveals the light of one’s neshama (soul). And the revelation of one’s neshama is a revelation of the light of Moshiach (Sefer HaSichot ibid, page 98).”
Reb Yerucham Levovitz
(the famed mashgiach of the Mir Yeshivah) recounted that when he was young he had many questions about his faith as he was (somewhat) involved in studying philosophy. He went to Rabbi Naftali Amsterdam (a student of Reb Yisroel Salanter) to discuss the doubts that were plaguing him. Rabbi Amsterdam told him “Learn Chumash with Rashi consistently. This will build your foundation of faith in the Almighty and you will have no more questions (Derech Pikudecha, pg. 51).”
Rabbi Eliyahu Mizrachi’s Obsession
wrote one of the most important commentaries on Rashi called Sefer HaMizrachi. In his responsa (number 60) he explained how he was obsessed with Rashi’s commentary.
“I was constantly busy every day with the words of the great luminary – Rashi – in his great commentary on the Chumash. There is not one word of his that does not need great examination and wondrous concentration into all of his sources. Whether they be the Mishnah, Braita, Mechilta, Sifra, Sifri, the entire Talmud, the Midrash Rabbah and Tanchuma and the Midrashim that are too many to count. This will help one resolve the difficulties that the later commentaries bring up. Especially those brought up by the great and awesome lion the Ramban
. I was therefore not able to stop examining Rashi’s words all day to the extent that I was unable to (properly) examine other matters.”
A Taste of Angelic Learning
The Talmud says that every baby is taught the entire Torah by an angel while in utero (see Niddah 30b
). The Baal Shem Tov said (Hosafot to Keter Shem Tov, page 342, ot 121) that during that time, “on Thursday nights the baby learns the Torah portion of the week. A person who is blessed by G-d with a good memory, when he becomes an adult and learns the Chumash with Rashi on Thursday nights, will remember the experience he had when learning the Torah portion before he was born.”
Living with the Times
The Alter Rebbe said that one needs to leave with the times. The brother of the Alter Rebbe, the Maharil explained that this means that one should live with the parsha of the week, and, more specifically, with the section that one learns on that day.
The Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe said (Sefer HaShichot 5702 pg. 30), “Living with the times means not only to learn the (appropriate) section of the Torah portion every day but to live with what one is learning.
“Life is the loftiest aspect of a person’s existence. The advantage of the human race is that they have intellect – a human’s highest faculty. Nevertheless intellect is only temporary as one cannot have intellectual thoughts for 24 hours a day. But life is a constant. One (who is alive) has life equally all the time, even when he is asleep or working in a job which might preclude [deep] intellectual thoughts. When one lives with the Torah portion of the week, ones’ life is completely different. As it is (i.e., becomes) the true life of the Torah for which reason G-d created the world. And for which reason He gave us the Torah – so that we can do all worldly matters properly and in the correct manner. And so that we live a Torah life.
“Indeed, one must live with the times.”
May we merit to learn and understand Chumash and Rashi with all the accompanying blessings!
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom UMevorach!