He apparently wrote a commentary on all the books of the Bible; only his commentary on the Pentateuch, however, has come down almost in its entirety. Of the remainder of Rashbam's commentaries only fragments have survived in the works of later commentators. Rashbam's biblical commentaries are characterized by his extreme devotion to the literal meaning (peshat). He constantly refers to "the profound literal meaning of the text." He strongly condemns earlier commentaries, including those of his grandfather, Rashi. This method of literal interpretation he adopted in his youth, and he relates how he argued on the subject with his grandfather who conceded that "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).
On rare occasions he bases his interpretation on halakhic or midrashic interpretations if these seem to him to agree with the literal meaning. At times he even interprets a verse against the halakhah (e.g., Gen. 1:5; Ex. 21:6, 10) despite the fact that he considered the halakhah as authoritative and "every word and interpretation of our sages are correct and true" (on Gen. 1:1). His uncomplicated faith and spiritual wholeness prevented him and those who followed his method from any feeling of tension or contradiction. In his opinion peshat and derash belong to different categories. While the former explains Scripture according to the laws of language and logic, the latter bases itself on redundancies in language employing the hermeneutical rules by which the Torah is expounded. He states: "Let every sensible person know and understand that although they are of primary importance I have not come to explain the halakhot... derived as they are from textual redundancies. They can partly be found in the commentaries of Rabbi Solomon, my maternal grandfather. My aim is to interpret the literal meaning of Scripture" (preface to section "Mishpatim").
Rashbam was 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. He sometimes remarks that since Rashi had already commented on a certain matter, there is no need to repeat what he had said. Some of his explanations, however, are completely identical with those of his grandfather.
His exposition is concise and lucid and confined to explanation of the subject matter and language. He does not usually state the difficulties explicitly; but these may be inferred from their solutions in the commentary. Unlike Rashi he gives one explanation only. In his commentary he takes cantillation into consideration. Like Rashi he often uses French glosses to explain words, and he often interprets verses in accordance with contemporary custom and usage (e.g., Gen. 49:24). Rashbam enters deeply into grammatical questions, generally relying upon R. Menahem b. Saruk and R. Dunash b. Labrat. In some cases he disagrees with them, demonstrating his own superior scholarship. In contrast to Rashi he insists that biblical Hebrew differs from mishnaic, and the meaning of a biblical word cannot therefore be determined by its meaning in mishnaic Hebrew (on Ex. 12:7). Occasionally, however, when he cannot find a biblical parallel he deviates from this rule (on Ex. 1:13).
He took pains to find accurate texts of the Bible, especially from Spain, according to them - and sometimes even according to his own opinion - amending the Bible texts before him (Ex. 23:24). Sometimes he quotes biblical verses different from the accepted text (e.g., Gen. l:5, 21; Deut. 32:11). This seems in some cases to be the result of adjusting the text in accordance with his explanation, but in others it is due to the fact that he had a different text before him. He laid down an important rule with regard to biblical poetry (cf. on Ex. 15:6) which was accepted by his grandfather who accordingly amended his own commentary. Another principle widely applied by Rashbam is that the details which appear to be redundant are necessary, however, for the elucidation of the events that follow. Targum Onkelos on the Pentateuch is one of his major sources. He also quotes the Palestine Targum on the Pentateuch once and the Targum to the Hagiographa twice. Twice he quotes the Vulgate but rejects its readings (Gen. 49:10; Ex. 20:13). He was the first Bible commentator to incorporate in his commentaries attacks on christological exposition. In this connection he gives reasons for certain laws, especially those whose validity was challenged by Christians. In some cases his extreme adherence to the literal meaning of the text may be attributed to those controversies with Christians. This emerges from the oft-repeated expression "according to the literal meaning of the text and in answer to sectarians."
His self-confidence in his ability as a commentator emerges clearly from his commentary. That self-confidence may explain his vigorous criticism of other commentators, his limiting himself to single explanations, the complete absence of the admission "I do not understand" (often found in Rashi) and his preparedness to make textual amendments. R. S. Z. Ashkenazi wrote a supercommentary Keren Shemu'el (Frankfort on the Oder, 1727) on Rashbam's commentary.
As Tosafist - in addition to his importance as a biblical commentator, Rashbam is also one of the first, and the most important, of the tosafists. Only part of his halakhic writings have come down to us. 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 Pesahim, and the other on most of Bava Batra, from folio 29a. The commentary on Bava Batra was written after Rashi's death. Two versions of the commentary which differ considerably exist: that of the Bomberg edition (Venice, 1521), and that of the Pesaro edition (1510). Some scholars ascribe to him the anonymous commentaries on a few of the small tractates of the Talmud, but there is no evidence for this. The commentary to Bava Batra was in the hands of Abraham b. Isaac of Narbonne during Samuel b. Meir's lifetime. His commentaries are characterized by their excessive prolixity, so that at times one of his comments is as long as a whole passage of tosafot. In addition to explaining the text he propounds and answers difficulties, proposes alternative explanations, weighing one against the other, and all within the framework of a running commentary on the Talmud. He also wrote tosafot to various tractates; only a number of quotations and a greater number of references have been preserved in the standard tosafot and in the works of other rishonim. A larger number of fragments occur in the tosafot to the third chapter of Makkot, from folio 20 onward, which are introduced with the words perush ha-kunteres. The commentary to Alfasi's compendium there ascribed to Rashi is also his. Large sections of his commentary to Avodah Zarah have come down in the works of other rishonim when they discuss the themes of this tractate. Many quotations from his commentary to Avot are preserved in the anonymous commentary to this tractate in the Mahzor Vitry and in that of Isaac b. Solomon of Toledo. Rashbam was also the first scholar of northern France to make frequent use of Alfasi's compendium, to which he even wrote a kind of tosafot. Various manuscripts refer to his commentary on piyyutim.
בשער הכללי ובשערים של ספר שמות וספר ויקרא: שנת ולברך את כ'ל' מ'ע'ש'ה' ידיך [תס"ה]. בשער ההפטרות: תס"ג.
שער נוסף (בחלק א, דף [8,א]): "זה ספר הרשבם (עדיין לא נמצא בדפוס), נמצא (בכ"י) באוצר ספרי... ר' דוד אפנהיים נר"ו... ושלשה סדרות ראשונות... חסרים מספר הרשב"ם...". זו הוצאה ראשונה של פירוש רשב"ם לתורה. החסרונות שבהוצאה זו
ובהוצאות שנדפסו על פיה הושלמו בהוצאת דוד רוזין, ברעסלויא תרמ"ב.
ראינו טופס של החומש שנכרך בחמישה כרכים, ובסוף כל ספר המגילות וההפטרות השייכות לו.
ידוע טופס על קלף.
טופס עם שינויים שונים (על קלף) מתואר על ידי שטיינשניידר, המזכיר, 1862 ,5, עמ' 80-79. הסכמות (בחלק א): ר' דוד ב"ר אברהם אופנהיים, פראג, כו כסלו תס"ה (עם הקדמה לפירוש רשב"ם);
ר' נפתלי ב"ר יצחק כ"ץ, פוזנן, ו אב ת"ס;
ר' אברהם נפתלי הירש לוי רעבץ שפיץ, ווירמיישא, א דראש-חדש כסלו [ל חשון] תס"ה;
ר' אהרן ב"ר יצחק בנימין [זאב] וואלף, ברלין, כג סיון תס"ה.
חלק א: (בראשית)-ויקרא... עם המגילות (שיר השירים ... אסתר) וההפטרות. תס"ג-תס"ה. , ג-ה, ה-רא; , רב-תו; , תז-תקכב; , עג, ; נט דף.
דף [5,ב-6,א]: "אל עין הקורא... ר' יוסף דרשן [ב"ר משה] (מק"ק פרעמיסלא, שתקע אהלו... בק"ק ברלין)... התחיל במצוה... ולא זכה לגמור אף חלק אחד ממנו כי לקח אותו אלהי' ואיננו, והנה עתה ... אשתו... חל עליה לגמור את המלאכה... הלא
היא... (חמותי) הרבנית... חיילה בת... ר' אברהם זצ"ל שהיה אב"ד ור"מ בק"ק לונשיץ... אנכי... שבאתי... להגיה... ספר הנכבד הזה... לא על ידי היתה תחלת תהלת המלאכה... כי כמה ידות היו ממשמשות בו טרם באי, ולא נשאר לפני כי אם חמשה או
ששה סדרים לתשלום ספר ויקרא... כ"ד [כה דברי]... שלמה זלמן במהור"ר מתתי' זצ"ל ... דיינא... ק"ק ליסא, ועתה מתגורר... בק"ק ברלין".
בסוף ספר שמות (דף תו,א): מעשה האפוד; (דף תו, ב): "נוסחא אחרינא מתרגום ירושלמי", על-פי אמשטלרדם ת"ל-תמ"ב.
בסוף ויקרא (דף תקכב,ב) שני שירים בשבח ההוצאה, מאת פועלי הדפוס: : מאת הזעצר חיים ב"ר כתריאל מקראקא, פותח: חיים שאל לכל איש ישראל. להתבונן במלאכתו מלאכת שמים. אוצר השירה והפיוט, ד, עמ' 162, מס' 42א.
: מאת הזעצר משה ב"ר פנחס שוחט טויסק מפראג, פותח: משה גם הוא עלה בזאת תורת העולה. הראה ענותנותו כאשר ראה כן עשה. שם, עמ' 196, מס' 85א.
נט דף, עם שער מיוחד: הפטרת [!] מכל השנה כמנהג אשכנזים וספרדים וברכות ההפטרה לפניה ולאחריה עם פירוש רד"ק. נדפסו בחברת ג חומשים...
חלק ב: (במדבר)-דברים... עם המגילות (רות... איכה ... קהלת) וההפטרות. תס"ה-תס"ח. שמט [צ"ל שסט]; לג דף.
בשער הכללי אין תאריך. בשער ספר דברים: בשנת ולברך את כ'ל' מ'ע'ש'ה' ידיך [תס"ה]. בשער ההפטרות : שנת תס"ח.
בסוף במדבר (דף קנב,ב): "ציור גבולות ארץ ישראל להרשב"ם".
לג דף, עם שער מיוחד: הפטרת [!] חלק שני...
המגילות עם התרגום הארמי, הערות המסורה, רש"י, אבן-עזרא ותולדות אהרן. על מגילת אסתר נוסף עוד תרגום שני עם ביאור מאת ר' חיים פייבל ב"ר דוד זכריה מתוך ההוצאה הנז'.