word "Tosafot" translates as "additions" or "supplements." This
probably means that their authors and editors saw their
work as supplements to Rashi's basic commentary.
Some have seen the Tosafot as an addition to the Talmud itself.
As we shall see below, it carries on the Talmud's own methods of
dialectical argument and debate.
The Tosafot are printed on the outer margin of the page; i.e.,
when looking at an opened book you will see the Tosafot in the
columns closest to the edges of the pages, farthest from the binding.
They appear in "Rashi script," with the headings of each
discussion in large square letters. The Tosafot that have been
printed in the standard Talmud editions are merely a
selection from a vast literature that circulated in manuscript.
Some of the other Tosafot compendia have been published as separate
The Tosafot were composed by many scholars in different schools
throughout the 12th and 13th centuries. They probably originated
as students' notes of the discussions that took place in the Talmudic
academy. As students moved from one yeshivah to another
they would assemble personal lists of the Tosafot of their various
Some of the most prominent contributors to the Tosafot were:
Rabbi Jacob ben Meir ("Rabbenu Tam"):
" Rabbenu Tam" (c. 1100 - 1171), Rashi's grandson, lived in the French
town of Ramerupt.
He was one of the most original and unconventional interpreters
of the Talmud. He often proposed bold and ingenious new explanations
of the Talmud.
Rabbi Samuel ben Meir (Acronym: RaShBa"M):
Rabbi Samuel (c. 1080 - c. 1158) was also a grandson of Rashi's
and the brother of Rabbenu Tam.
In addition to his contributions to the Tosafot, he composed a
famous commentary to the Torah. He also composed the commentaries
to some of the Talmud sections that his grandfather had left uncompleted.
Rabbi Isaac of Dampierre (Acronym: R"I):
A nephew of Rabbenu Tam and the Rashbam, he lived in France during
the 12th century, and was one of the most prolific of the Tosafists.
Rabbi Samson [ben Abraham] of
He lived in France during the latter 12th and early 13th centuries,
and eventually moved to Jerusalem. He was the most important disciple
of Rabbi Isaac of Dampierre. In addition to his Tosafot he composed
a commentary to the two orders of the Mishnah for which there is
no Babylonian Talmud.
Rabbi Meir [ben Barukh] of Rothenburg
He was born in Worms, Germany, around 1225, and died in 1293 while
being held for ransom by the Emperor Rudolph.
Rabbi Meir made important contributions to Jewish civil law, and
his many students diligently collected his customs, responsa and
rulings, often comparing them with the material in the important
Spanish codes of Jewish law.
The collection of the scattered Tosafot collections was carried
out particularly in France, whereas the German scholars were more
interested in compiling halachic compendia.
Among the scholars who are known for their contributions to the
redaction of the Tosafot were:
Rabbi Samson of Sens assembled the collections of Tosafot known
as Tosafot Sens.
Rabbi Peretz of Corbeil, France (his work was conducted from
1350 to 1368).
Rabbi Eliezer [ben Solomon] of
Touques, Normandy, whose collections
form the basis of most of the Tosafot printed in the standard Talmud
Rabbi Asher ben Jehiel ("Ro"sh," "Asheri")
edited collections of Tosafot from the important French schools.
Late in his life, in 1303 he left Germany for Toledo, Spain. This
event was an important stage in the dissemination of the Franco-German
Talmudic interpretation among Spanish Jews. Rabbi Asher's son,
Rabbi Jacob, author of the Tur, would play an important role in
the merging of the traditions.