CHAPTER VII
THE TALMUDIC COMMENTARIES

The commentaries on the Bible, especially those on the Pentateuch, constitute a work for general reading and for devotion as well as for scientific study. Their general scope explains both their excellencies and their defects. On the other hand, the commentary on the Talmud is an academic work. It originated in the school of Rashi, and was elaborated there during a long time. The one is a popular work for the use of the masses, the other, a learned treatise for the use of students. The explanation of the Scriptures was written for the benefit of the faithful in popular, attractive, and comprehensible form; the explanation of the Talmud constituted matter for serious study in the academies. Or, rather, after the long, exhaustive, and often dry-as-dust Talmudic discussion, the master took pleasure in interrupting his instruction in the school to give his interpretation of Biblical passages.

This is the reason why the Talmudic commentaries,94 which are, as it were, the summing-up of Rashi's teachings, of his own studies, and of the observations of his pupils, have a more mature, more thoughtful character than the Biblical commentaries. They undoubtedly represent a greater amount of labor. It seems that Rashi himself made two or three recensions of his commentary, at least for many of the Talmudic treatises.

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