CHAPTER VIII
THE RESPONSA

In the previous chapter we saw that Rashi, though chiefly concerned with the mere explanation of the Talmud, nevertheless intrenched sometimes upon the domain of practice. It must not be forgotten that at that epoch the life of the Jews was based upon, and directed by, rabbinical jurisprudence and discipline. The study of the Talmud was taken up for the sake of finding in it rules for the daily conduct of existence. Apart from certain questions purely theoretic in character and having no practical application, Talmudic studies, far from being confined to the school, responded to the needs of life and were of real, vital interest. But since the Talmud is not all-comprehensive, the rabbis in drawing inspiration from its rules, from precedents it had already established, and from analogous instances contained in it, were justified in rendering decisions upon new points arising out of circumstances as they occurred. Thus, measures are cited passed by Rashi upon the payment of taxes, Christian wine, the Mezuzah, phylacteries, etc. These measures resulted not so much from his own initiative as from the requests preferred to him by his disciples, or by other rabbis, or even by private individuals.

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