-The Talmud says, in two places, "He who reports a saying in the name of its author brings deliverance to the world." [Megillah 15a; Chullin 104b]

-The Talmud is very careful to always attribute its teachings. The above is credited to Rabbi Elazar.

-Rashi and the Rambam did not generally attribute teachings in their writings. But then, their purpose was to summarize, to compile, to organize. They could have cited sources in footnotes, but didn't.

-Many later commentators cite Rashi and the Rambam as if they were the originators of teachings. For example: "See Rashi on Exodus 4:3". They could have looked up the original in Talmud or the midrashim, and credited it, but didn't.

-So why did Rashi, the Rambam, and many later commentators not follow the Talmudic injunction?

(If someone wishes to argue: "All rabbis quote their masters and it all goes back to Moses anyway, so why bother with names?", then why did the Talmud report that teaching and follow it scrupulously in every single page?)

  • There is clearly some limit to how far back you need to quote. It's unreasonable to say one needs to repeat the entire first Mishna of Avos and then some for every statement that is said. Commented Mar 12, 2019 at 18:59
  • 1
    If there is clearly an author who said it first, it is not too much to ask to credit him alone. "As Rabbi Elazar said in the Talmud" is better than "as Rashi said". Commented Mar 12, 2019 at 19:01
  • related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/28714/…
    – Loewian
    Commented Mar 12, 2019 at 19:04
  • and: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/68802/…
    – Loewian
    Commented Mar 12, 2019 at 19:05
  • @alex according to your conclusion, this may be different.
    – Dr. Shmuel
    Commented Mar 12, 2019 at 19:17

1 Answer 1


Rambam explains in several comments that he doesn't want to dwell on the text, or is afraid about hostility against some sources. The reason is pedagogical. I assume that Rashi wanted to make his comments as short as possible to allow a fast learning. Neither Rashi nor Rambam speak to the reader as if they invented something. They transmitted the masoret. Ramchal in Sefer Hahigayon also doesn't cite sources for the same reason, and in most sifre Kabala he cites rarely authors.

Rambam, introduction to 8 chapters:

אָמְנָם הֵם עִנְיָנִים לִקַּטְתִּים מִדִּבְרֵי חֲכָמִים בְּמִדְרָשׁוֹת וְתַלְמוּד וְזוּלָתָם מֵחִבּוּרֵיהֶם; וּמִדִּבְרֵי הַפִּילוֹסוֹפִים גַּם כֵּן הַקַּדְמוֹנִים וְהַחֲדָשִׁים, וּמֵחִבּוּרֵי הַרְבֵּה בְנֵי אָדָם - וּשְׁמַע הָאֱמֶת מִמִּי שֶׁאֲמָרָהּ. וְאֶפְשָׁר שֶׁאָבִיא לִפְעָמִים מַאֲמָר אֶחָד כֻּלּוֹ מִסֵּפֶר הַמְפוּרְסָם בִּלְשׁוֹנוֹ - וְאֵין בְּכָלזֶה רֹעַ. וְאֵינִי מִתְפָּאֵר בְּמַהשֶּׁאֲמָרוֹ מִי שֶׁקָּדַם מִמֶּנִּי - שֶׁאֲנִי כְּבָר הִתְוַדֵּיתִי בָּזֶה - וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁלֹּא אַזְכִּיר: "אָמַר פְּלוֹנִי" - שֶׁזֶּה אֲרִיכוּת אֵין תּוֹעֶלֶת בָּהּ. וְאֶפְשָׁר שֶׁיִּהְיֶה מֵבִיא זִכְרוֹן שֵׁם הָאִישׁ הַהוּא לַחְשֹׁב מִי שֶׁאֵין לוֹ חֵךְ: שֶׁהַדָּבָר הַהוּא נִפְסָד וּבְתוֹכוֹ רֹעַ, שֶׁלֹּא יְבִינֵהוּ - וּמִפְּנֵי זֶה רָאִיתִי שֶׁלֹּא לִזְכֹּר הָאוֹמֵר, שֶׁכַּוָּנָתִי לְהוֹעִיל הַקּוֹרֵא וּלְבָאֵר לוֹ עִנְיָנִים הַצְּפוּנִים בְּזֹאת הַמַּסָּכֶת.‏

Rambam explain in the introduction that he sometimes cites statements from authors, midrashim, Talmud and philosophers. After this disclosure, there is no need to cite his name for two reasons, the first, to be short, the second, for some people who can think that some author is not trustworthy, so, necessarily his words are bad.

So, in teaching Tora, to lead to geula is very important, but to be a good pedagogue is more important.

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