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Jewish Commentators — Their Lives and Works

 

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Samuel ben Meir
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Hebrew Name(s): שמואל בן מאיר; רשב"ם
Other Names: RaSHBaM, Shmuel ben Meir
Period: Rishonim — 12th Century
Location: Troyes, France
Dates: c.1085–1158 (some sources say 1089–1174)

Biography:
Samuel ben Meir (The RaSHBaM) was the son of Meir ben Shmuel and Rashi's daughter Yocheved. He was a brother of Rabbeinu Tam (Jacob ben Meir) and RIBam (Isaac ben Meir.)  He was a student of Rashi and Isaac ben Asher ha-Levi, an exegete, Talmudist and halakhic authority. Samuel ben Meir was the elder brother of Jacob ben Meir and Isaac ben Meir, both Tosafists, and also a teacher of his brother, Jacob ben Meir.
 
Samuel ben Meir's commentary on the Torah focused on the peshat and he was at times controversial. Consequently his commentary on the first chapters of Genesis was omitted in many early editions of the Torah. He also wrote commentary to the Talmud, some of which has been preserved. His commentary appears in Bava Batra (where there is no commentary of Rashi) and in the last chapter of tractate Pesaḥim.
 
In addition to his commentaries on the Torah and the Talmud, Samuel ben Meir wrote Piyyutim and a grammatical work, Sefer Daikut.
 
RaSHBaM — Rabbi Shmuel Ben Meir

Works:
Tosafot, Commentary on the Torah; Commentary on the Talmud

Comments:
Samuel Ben Meir's Torah Commentary included: The Pentateuch (of which most has been preserved in its entirety), The Five Megillot, Judges, Kings, Prophets, Psalms—of these very little remains apart from fragments which have survived in the works of others (e.g., Abraham ben Aziel's Arugat ha-Bosem). Samuel ben Meir's Torah commentaries are distinguished by their focussed attention to the peshat which he refers to as "the profound menaing of the text." His work is critical of other commentators who take a less literal approach to the text. His criticism even extended to his grandfather, Rashi. with whom he argued on the subject. Samuel ben Meir wrote [subsequently] Rashi's reaction: “if he had the time, he would have had to write another commentary, more in accordance with the literal approach, then daily gaining ground” (Rashbam, on Gen. 37:2).
Samuel ben Meir was, however, greatly influenced by Rashi, and to a considerable extent regarded his commentary as complementing that of Rashi, especially in those cases where Rashi did not follow the peshat.
Tosafot. Samuel b. Meir is one of the first, and the most important, of the tosafists. Not all of his halakhic writings have come down to us, however, the most significant and important are his supplements to Rashi's commentary on the Talmud (where Rashi did not manage to complete his final version.) Two of these were published instead of Rashi's missing commentary: one on chapter 10 of Pesaḥim, and the other on most of Bava Batra (from folio 29a). The commentary on Bava Batra was written after Rashi's death. In addition to explaining the text, Samuel Ben Meir propounds and answers difficulties, proposes alternative explanations, weighing one against the other, and all within the framework of a running commentary on the Talmud.
Some of Samuel Ben Meir's Commentary on the Talmud completes Rashi's work.

 

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