CHAPTER II
THE YOUTH AND EDUCATION OF RASHI

Little is known concerning the life of Rashi. Owing to various causes not a single work is extant that might be used as a guide for the establishment of minor facts. Generally speaking, Jewish literature in the middle ages was of an impersonal character; practically no memoirs nor autobiographies of this period exist. The disciples of the great masters were not lavish of information concerning them. They held their task to be accomplished when they had studied and handed on the master's works; regard for his teachings ranked above respect for the personality of the author. But the figure of Rashi, as though in despite of all such obstacles, has remained popular. People wanted to know all the details of his life, and they invented facts according to their desires. Fiction, however, fell short of the truth. Legend does not represent him so great as he must actually have been. In the present work, too, I shall be obliged to resort to comparisons and analogies, to supplement by hypotheses the scanty information afforded by history, yet I shall distinguish the few historic facts from the mass of legends in which they are smothered.

As of old many cities in Greece asserted that they were the birthplace of Homer, the national poet, so a number of cities disputed for the honor of being the birthplace

-31-

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