Friday, May 28, 2010

Page 21: Rashi's Daughters

Maggie Anton has written a wonderful trilogy about the life of the famous Talmud scholar Salomon ben Isaac (Rashi).  Rashi was born in 1040 and lived most of his life in Troyes, France.  Each book in the trilogy features one of his three daughters.  The Rashi's Daughters trilogy is as follows: Book I: Joheved, Book II: Miriam, and Book III: Rachel.

The Talmud is the second most important Jewish religious text after the Bible.  Rashi is famous for his commentaries which were written to explain and illuminate the text.  His was a lifelong work and Rashi's commentaries are still found in the Talmud as it is studied today.  Rashi studied in Germany for several years and then returned to Troyes.  He established a yeshiva (school) for Talmud study, and it became very famous.  Of course, traditional Jewish study at the time was for men and not women.  The unique theme of this trilogy is that the author postulates, based on historic evidence, that Rashi also taught Talmud to his three daughters.

These books include many fascinating discussions between Rashi and his daughters as they study Talmud together, but that is not the whole story.  All three daughters eventually married and had children of their own. Their lives are closely followed including helping their father in the family vineyards, having children, and establishing their own careers.  Daily life in medieval France is woven into the narrative and is quite fascinating.  One daughter was a midwife and another a textile merchant.  We think of the medical knowledge of the time as primitive compared to modern medicine, but the discussion of the medicinal uses and effects of various herbs is enlightening.

They were fortunate to live in a period of history in France when Jews were treated better than in other periods such as the Inquisition.  However, the participants of the First Crusade changed all that in 1096, and managed to massacre nearly the entire Jewish population of Germany during the third book of the trilogy.

Find out more about this trilogy by going to which will provide you with a great deal of information about the books as well as other links to pursue if you are so inclined.  I found this trilogy to be an inspired and well researched window into the past as it existed in eleventh century France.  The story of each daughter is unique, but the entire trilogy is a continuous narrative of Rashi, his daughters, their families, and other individuals that are an important part of the narrative. I think you will find this trilogy to be a great read as well as a definite learning experience.

No comments:

Post a Comment