CHRONOLOGY - Rashi - Elie Wiesel

Rashi - Elie Wiesel (2009)


586 BCE

The Kingdom of Judah is defeated by the Babylonians and its leaders exiled to Babylon.

539 BCE

The Persian emperor Cyrus the Great, having defeated the Babylonian Empire, allows exiled Jews to begin to return to the Land of Israel and undertake rebuilding the Temple.

458 BCE

Ezra, a leader of Jews who has been exiled in Babylonia, returns to the land of Israel with his followers. Also institutes the practice of publicly reading the Torah in synagogue.

C. 300-250 BCE

Emergence of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Bible, composed for the benefit of Greek-speaking Jews in Alexandria.

70 CE

The Roman emperor Titus crushes the Jewish revolt in Jerusalem, destroying the Temple. Jews are sent into exile throughout the Roman Empire, some as far as France; the rabbinic leadership reconvenes in the city of Yavneh in northern Israel, where they establish their academy.

CA. 77

Flavius Josephus, a Jewish historian and commander in the war against Rome who, after his capture by the Romans, became a favorite of the emperor, writes The Jewish War, his history of the war against Rome.

CA. 100

Onkelos, a proselyte and contemporary of the Rabban Gamliel and Eliezer ben Hyracnus, prominent rabbis of the Mishnah, translates the Bible into Aramaic, the common language of Jews at that time. Onkelos’s Aramaic translation, which by necessity contains interpretation, is still printed as one of the standard commentaries on the Torah.

CA. 200

Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi codifies the Mishnah, a collection of Jewish Law derived from the Torah.


Saadiah ben Joseph, an Egyptian-born scholar then living in Babylonia, appointed head or gaon of the Talmud academy in Sura, Babylonia, one of the two cities which were then the centers of Jewish scholarship. He was the creator of rabbinic literature, author of important works on halakhah, as well as one of the first Jewish philosophers. He also translated the Bible into Arabic, and was an important compiler of liturgy and author of piyyutim (liturgical poems).

CA. 950

Birth of Shimon bar Yitzhak, one of the earliest German authors of liturgical poems, colleague of Rabbenu Gershom, the famed German rabbi and leader of Western European Jewry, and uncle of Rashi.

CA. 950-960

Menahem ben Jacon ibn Saruq, Spanish author and lexicographer, writes Mahberet, a Hebrew-language dictionary of Hebrew and Aramaic; it is used by scholars throughout Europe.

CA. 960

Dunash ben Librat, a Hebrew poet and lexicographer, attacks ibn Saruq’s Mahberet on the grounds that some of its definitions may lead to heresy; the controversy continues for generations, well into the time of Rashi and his descendants.

CA. 11th century

Rabbi Yosef bar Shmuel Tov-elem Bonfils, born in Narbonne, France. An author of piyyutim and influential halakhic decisions, he is the first French rabbi who can be identified beyond his name.


Jews briefly expelled from Mainz.

CA. 1021

Birth of Solomon ben Judah ibn Gabirol, great Spanish philosopher and author of both religious and secular poetry.


Death of Rabbenu Gershom ben Judah Meor ha-Golah, in Mainz. Rabbenu Gershom’s most famous decisions, prohibiting polygamy and the reading of private letters, are known throughout the Ashkenazic world. Rabbenu Gershom’s students, Rabbi Yitzhak ben Yehuda and Rabbi Yaakov ben Yakar, who will be Rashi’s teachers, take over the yeshiva.


Shmuel ha-Nagid, the halakhist and leader of Spanish Jewry, becomes vizier of Granada, then under Muslim rule.


Solomon ben Isaac, later known as Rashi, born in Troyes, France.


Death of Rashi’s favorite teacher, Rabbi Yaakov ben Yakar, who had been a disciple of Rabbenu Gershom. In Rashi’s commentaries he is identified as “my teacher in Scripture.”

CA. 1070

Rashi founds a school in Troyes.

CA. 1089

Birth of Abraham ben Meir ibn Ezra, in Tudela, Spain. Ibn Ezra will go on to become one of the most significant Hebrew poets and biblical commentators, a major proponent of the peshat school of exegesis.


Pope Urban II preaches that Christian soldiers should retake Jerusalem from the Muslims, initiating what will be the First Crusade. Christian soldiers set off for the Holy Land, massacring Jews in France, the Rhineland, and Bohemia along the way.


Crusader Godfrey of Boullon conquers Jerusalem, massacring Jews and Karaites.


Rashi dies. His grandson and disciple Shmuel ben Meir, known as the Rashbam, one of the most prominent Tosafists, completes Rashi’s commentary on several tractates of the Talmud.


Birth of Moses ben Maimon, known as Maimonides or Rambam, the great Spanish philosopher, commentator, writer, and codifier of halakhah and physician to Saladin, as well as nagid, leader, of all Jews under Saladin’s empire.


Death of Judah ha-Levi, the great Hebrew poet, philosopher, and friend of Abraham ibn Ezra. Born in Spain, he died in the land of Israel.


The first blood libel takes place in Norwich, England.


The passage of the Second Crusade through France causes one of Rashi’s grandsons, Jacob ben Meir, known as Rabbenu Tam, to leave his home in Ramerupt, France. The greatest scholar of his generation, Rabbenu Tam wrote extensive responsa as well as Hebrew poetry and grammar.


Rabbi Eliezer bar Nathan of Mainz, a leading German rabbinical authority, together with Rabbenu Tam and Rashbam, composes Takkanot Troyes, the Ordinance of Troyes, the directives governing the Jews of that community.


Saladin reconquers Jerusalem from the Crusaders, permits Jewish resettlement.


Birth in Spain of Moses ben Nachman, known as Nachmanides or Ramban, a major philosopher, Talmudist, and Kabbalist whose biblical commentary appears in the standard texts with that of Rashi. His teachers were trained by the Tosafists of northern France, the school of Rashi’s disciples.

CA. 1205-1218

The Radak, Rabbi David Kimhi, a grammarian and exegete in Narbonne, France, participates in the judgment of several men from Barcelona who dishonored Rashi’s memory.


A blood libel in Troyes leads to the execution of thirteen Jews, inspiring laments by the Hebrew-French poet Jacob ben Judah of Lorraine, who witnessed the event.


Nicholas de Lyre, a Christian biblical commentator and theologian, begins to publish his Postillae Perpetuae, the first Christian Bible commentary to be printed. He relies heavily on Rashi, whom he also translated into Latin.

CA. 1470

Birth of Obadiah ben Jacob Sforno, a major Italian biblical commentator.


First known printed Hebrew book is produced in Italy. A Bible with Rashi’s commentary, it uses a cursive script typeface for Rashi’s comments, a typeface that will come to be known as “Rashi script.”


Don Isaac Abrabanel, a Portuguese-born financier and biblical exegete who had fled Portugal and Spain rather than convert to Christianity, settles in Venice where he will continue to write his commentaries on the Bible.


Daniel Bomberg, a Christian printer of Hebrew books, publishes Mikra’ot Gedolot, a Hebrew Torah with commentary by Rashi, ibn Ezra, and others. Establishes the convention of printing the commentaries in “Rashi script.” He goes on to publish the Talmud, also with commentaries in Rashi script, including those of Rashi and his grandsons, the Tosafists.


Rabbi Yom Tov Lipmann ha-Levi Heller, a purported descendant of Rashi, begins to publish his commentary on the Mishnah, the Tosafot Tom Tov.


Rabbi Isaiah ben Abraham ha-Levi Horowitz, a purported descendant of Rashi, publishes his Shnei Luchot ha-Brit, a guide to ethical life combining halakhah, kabbalah, and moral instruction

CA. 1735

Israel ben Eliezer, known as the Ba’al Shem Tov, founds the Hasidic movement, which stresses ecstatic prayer and mysticism. His influence soon spreads among the Jews of Eastern Europe.


Birth of Nahman of Bratzlav, who will go on to be a major Hasidic thinker.


Emancipation of the Jews of France.


Albert Dreyfus, a Jewish captain on the French Army General Staff, convicted of treason and publicly demoted on a tide of French anti-Semitism. He was exonerated in 1906.

June 1940

France surrenders to the German army. The country is divided into two zones; the north is under direct German control, and the south is ruled by a French puppet government based in Vichy.

November 1942

Germans take control of all of France. Deportations of Jews increase. More than eighty thousand Jews from France, both native French and Jewish immigrants to France, are killed at Auschwitz by the end of the war. Many more Jews suffer greatly in work camps and forced labor battalions.

May 14, 1948

Founding of the State of Israel.


Rashi Institute, dedicated to Jewish scholarship, opens in Troyes.