MS Leipzig 1 (Universitätsbibliothek Leipzig, B.H.1) – Rashi's Torah Commentary1

The popularity of Rashi's Torah commentary2 and the tendency of medieval scholars and copyists to add to it their marginal glosses combined to create enormous variation between different manuscripts and editions of the commentary. As a result, it is often difficult to determine how Rashi's original text read, and whether words, sentences, and even entire passages from the commentary, were written by Rashi himself or are merely later accretions. These textual issues are significant both for understanding specific interpretations of Rashi,3 and for their cumulative impact on an evaluation of the character of his commentary.

On this backdrop, the importance of the Leipzig 1 (Universitätsbibliothek Leipzig, B.H.1) manuscript of Rashi can hardly be overstated. This manuscript was written in the 13th century by R. Makhir b. Karshavyah, who states that he produced it from a copy of the commentary transcribed and annotated by Rashi's own secretary, R. Shemayah.4 R. Makhir not only copied Rashi's base commentary from R. Shemayah's manuscript, but he also reproduced many of the marginal glosses contained in R. Shemayah's text, a good number of which R. Shemayah explicitly attributes to Rashi himself.5

MS Leipzig 1 is, thus, an extremely valuable textual witness which comes tantalizingly close to the original source. In addition, its glosses shed significant light on Rashi's thought processes and the development of his commentary. As such, ready access to the text of this manuscript and a comparative analysis of its readings to other manuscripts is a desideratum. We are therefore grateful for the very gracious permission granted by the Leipzig – Universitaetsbibliothek to present here the text and images from this manuscript.

To proceed to a preliminary partial electronic edition of the Leipzig 1 manuscript, click here. To participate in this project, please contact us at: