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Three Themes in the Sefer Ḥasidim*

  • Haym Soloveitchik (a1)


It is not simply the bounty of novel directives found in Sefer Ḥasidim that constitute the most puzzling feature of that work, nor even their occasional strangeness, but rather the awesome authority claimed for these prescripts. Divine punishment of the direst sort awaits those who fail, even unwittingly, to comply with them. Indeed, entire communities have been doomed by just such unintended transgressions.



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1. Though prophecy is a phenomenon known to Hasidic circles and R. Samuel Hasid is called in certain sources Samuel, R. the Prophet (G. Scholem, Ursprung itnd Anfange der Kabbala[Berlin, 1962], pp. 211218), prophetic authority does not underlie Sefer Hasidimnor is any such claim, whether explicit or implicit, ever set forth. Throughout Sefer Hasidim,the hasidor hakamis not a figure who has been vouchsafed communication with the transcendental world, but one who is (S.H.,1328). Knowledge and perception of a unique sort rather than illumination empower the hasidto speak.

2. 1004, 1100, 1110, 1111, 1143.

3. 1076.

4. 914, 1289.

5. 1, 1006, 228, 15 (p, 21), and by implication much of Sefer Hasidim.

6. Unwittingly much of Sefer Hasidimis a reproof of their doctrine of predestination (), an indication of how little organic relationship there is between the received theoretical principles of the movement and their living thought,

7. For the conscious formulation by Hasid, R. Judah that new religious directives lie buried in every Biblical passage, see Moshab Zekenim 'al ha-Torah, ed. Sassoon (London, 1959), p, 84, taken from the Commentary of R. Zaltman, son of R. Judah the Hasid, on the Torah, ms. Cambridge, Add. 669.2, fol. 23v: This is taken up and elaborated by his pupils in S.H., 1826, 1829, 1831. See also 1514: See also Rokeah, Hilkot iftisidut, Shoresh Rash Ha-Hasidut Bi-Tehillato (end): The scanning of midrashim for new imperatives is echoed in 1667. (Cf. the remarks of R. Eleazar of Worms published by Dan, J. in Zion, 29 [1964], 171.) (The bulk of the first and the entire second section of this essay were written in the spring of 1967. J. Dan informed me at the time of the existence of the Cambridge ms. which had previously been in the possession of S. D. Luzzato, and described by him in Kerem Hemed, VII, 68–71; see S.H., Introduction, 7. Since then Prof.H.H, Ben Sasson has drawn attention to this ms. in “Haside 'Ashkenaz 'al Halukkat Kinyanim IJomriyyim we-Ruhaniyyim Beyn Bene ha-'Adam” Zion, 35 [1970], 6179)

8. See the opening sections of both editions of Sefer Hasidim cited briefly supra, pp. 312–313. See also S.H., 27–28, which form part of the same programmatic introduction, and see the use of in the passages cited in note 50 in light of our remarks there. Note also in the above passages, in 984 and (ed. Bologna) 10, in light of the use of the term J7D1J7 in Hasidic writings for hidden Divine lore (J. Dan, op. cit., [supra, n. 7]. p. 170, n. 9). See also Baer, Y., “Ha-Megammah Ha-Datit Ha-Hebratit shel Sefer Hasidim” Zion, 3 (1938), 8. Haside 'Ashkenaz had a congenital difficulty in adhering to any fixed terminology, even in their esoteric teachings (Scholem, G., Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism [New York, 1946], p. 110; see also Journal of Jewish Studies, 18 [1967], 75), and not surprisingly rezon ha-Bore is often used colloquially with no special connotation (e.g., 114, 244 305), just as the Larger Will is sometimes referred to as (infra, n. 50).

9. Dan, J., Torat Ha-Sod shel Hasidut 'Ashkenaz (Jerusalem, 1968), pp. 8494.

10. It should be emphasized that the idea of implicit revelation or Will of the Bore is not being inferred from Hasidic terminology (a hazardous task at best), but from the content of the entire Sefer Hasidim. The correspondence of this notion with other aspects of thought is simply being pointed out and a correlation suggested. If the reader feels that those similarities are fortuitous and prefers to speak of this second revelation simply as a “Larger Divine Will”rather than as the “Will of the Creator,”I have, basically, no quarrel with him. (The subsequent remarks in the text [pp. 318–319] should preclude any misunderstanding that each aspect of the Deity is responsible for a separate revelation. Nothing could be further from the thoughts of the Pietists.)

11. See, for example, Javelet, R., Image et resemblance au douzieme siecle, 2 vols. (Paris, 1967), especially I, 227 ff.; Curtius, E.R., European Literature and the Later Middle Ages (New York, 1953), pp. 319 ff. (though I am in no way arguing for any “book”topos in Hasidic thought).

12. Male, E., The Gothic Image: Religious Life in France of the Thirteenth Century(New York, 1958), pp. 29 ff.

13. 1:20 Invisibilia enim ipsius a creatura mundi per ea quae facta sunt intellecta conspiciuntur.

14. Binding corpus amongst Jews meant the Halakic portions of the Pentateuch as interpreted by the Oral Law. All narrative portions of the Bible would be part of the “larger Scripture."

15. Curtius, op. cit., p. 318. The manual was written sometime before the year 1084; see J.F., Benton (ed.), Self and Society in Medieval France: The Memoirs of Guibert of Nogent (New York, 1970), p. 276.

16. Certain ideas suggest themselves naturally to the imagination, and their occurrence in two adjacent societies does not necessarily indicate influence. Others are so strange and novel that they can emerge only in a specific climate of opinion. Though the Hasidic system of penance was probably of alien derivation (infra,p. 320), one can easily imagine such practices springing up indigenously. That sin must be expiated is instinctive enough a feeling, and similar doctrines of penance could well emerge in two parallel cultures independently of one another. The notion of inferring God's omniscience from the skills of a bloodhound in tracing its quarry (Dan, op. cit.,p. 90) does not on its own present itself to the mind. Dogs are not naturally associated with the Divinity, nor do the faithful as a rule draw sustenance for their belief from the canine population around them. Only in a culture which systematically viewed the world and its creatures as symbols of religious truths, and which, as a consequence, engaged in religious exegesis of Bestiaries (e.g., Male, op. cit.),could some thinker find confirmation of Divine attributes in the proficiency of a bloodhound.

17. 985, 2 (p.. 4), 15 (p. 17), 359, 476 (775, 755, 960). Rokeah, Hilkot Hasidut, Shoresh Zeki'ot 'Arum Be-Yir'ah.The concept of is a leitmotif of Pietist thought.

18. Southern, R.W., Medieval Humanism and Other Studies (New York, 1970), pp. 2960 (and more questionably Morris, C.M., The Discovery of the Individual, 1050–1200 [London, 1972]).

19. S.H., 1076:

20. 1661, 1664, 1006, 1939, (1838 end), (cf. 1503).

21. Teshubot Ha-Bah Ha-Yeshanot(Frankfurt, 1697), 79. It is fashionable nowadays to decry the historiography of the maskilim,notably Dor Dor we-Dorshaw,and not without justice, but it should be remembered that they recognized a humrawhen they saw it. Their error was not so much of fact, as in the belief that stringency and leniency are meaningful, indeed themeaningful, rubrics of legal history.

22. On our use of the term “normative,”see infra,p. 326.

23. Despite one or two references to hashed (diabolus)(see Baer, op. cit. [supra,n. 8]. p. 16), the very rich Hasidic world of demons has been stripped of its Satanic properties. In Sefer Hasidim(as in most Jewish literatures, Prof. Scholem informs me) shedimare troublesome, at times even physically dangerous, but they are not evil. They are never agents of Lucifer seeking to ensnare man in sin. This is all the more remarkable in view of the fact that contemporary Christian demons are invariably the emissaries of the kingdom of darkness (cf., for example, Caesarius of Hesterbach, Dialogus Miraculorum,Bk. XI). The Hasid was impervious to such influences, for the purity of the Saadianic Deity and the awesome omnipotence of the Throne-God of their Merkabah traditions prevented him from seriously entertaining the idea of a force standing in opposition to His will. Contemporary demons were accepted as a natural but not theological force. For an extreme formulation of this position, see 'Or Zaru'a,II, 147: and see now the passage in the Bodley manuscript cited by Dan, J., 'lyyunim Besifrut Hasidut 'Ashkenaz (Ramat Gan, 1975), p. 142. (The second word in the passage should read .) See also Trachtenberg, J., Jewish Magic and Superstition(New York, 1939), p. 35.

24. Cf. infra,pp. 327–337.

25. Baer, op. cit.,pp. 18–20.

26. The phrase is Scholem's (op. cit.,p. 94) ("humaner Billigkeit"), and deserves, I think, wider currency. A number of these directives are assumed under the name of , a category which has achieved such prominence in recent historiography that a few words may be in place. After reading the relevant sections in Aquinas on jus divinumor lex divina (Summa Theologica,I, II, Q. 91, A. 4, 5), it becomes difficult to see what it has to do with understood as “the natural law implanted in man's conscience.”Lex divinais the exact reverse of that. It is a revealed code given to man precisely because the fallibility of his reason and instinct left him in need of explicit directives. The passage sometimes cited in proof of the similarity of these two concepts (Sum. Theol.,I, II, Q. 96, A. 2) deals with Divine Providence and not at all with Divine Law. Another writer has cautiously termed din shamayima “kind of natural law.”But then the identity of terms is lost, and it is this identity which provides the simplest evidence of overt influence. It is wisest to eschew the term “natural law”altogether, for it assumes conceptions of an ordered cosmos, a universal reason, a community of mankind, and the like, ideas as alien to Haside 'Ashkenazas a motor car. The dozen or so instances of din shamayimscattered about the two thousand sections of Sefer Hasidimrepresent in no sense the perception of a fixed and eternal body of general truths which serve as a basis for the construction of a natural ethic. They are rather a spotty group of glosses. All are “ad hoc”dicta, the predominant number of which treat restitution in cases of theft or damage (22 [twice]; 43; 90, 89, 1888, 1964; 632; 1323 [164]), as do the dozen cases of in the Talmud (Baba Kamma55b-56a, 118a, Baba Mezi'a37a), clustered thickly in the sixth chapter of Baba Kammaand after which those of Haside 'Ashkenazare clearly patterned. They form an instantial, and occasionally, sensitized expansion of the Talmudic principle of din shamayim,namely, that the moral obligations in tort exceed the legal ones. This is expanded in one or two rulings to include waivers where the full exercise of one's rights would lead to or in itself be an injustice (1207, 1214, 1313) and then to certain specific judicial corrections when the execution of the general (and of necessity uniform) ordinance would be palpably unfair (1381 [see 1005] and 1289 [see 1840] and see supra,p. 315). The term is employed once with regard to filial piety (1725–6), again in admonishing against supping heartily at a miser's table (848), and yet once more in emphasizing the importance of intent in evaluating human actions (1673, see infra,p. 324). If correlatives must be had for its predominant use, a rough approximation would be found in equity, which, as Maitland has eloquently reminded us, is never a body of law but a collection of appendices. actually is but a small, and indeed rather prosaic fragment of the larger revolutionary As Assaf (Baer, op. cit.,p. 13, n. 25) already noted, there is little in the Hasidic din shamayimwhich has neither Geonic precedent nor Spanish parallel. For sooner or later any legal system must provide for effectual redress, where by reason of the special circumstances of the case the redress at law is inadequate. This universally felt need could be taken by Haside 'Ashkenazas part of God's larger will and a ready-made term, , easily given it, for it was only an elaboration of that Talmudic principle enunciated in passages known to every schoolboy. The quotidian significance of was miniscule. How often was one involved in torts and thefts? Its invocation by a judge of Hasidic persuasion would awaken few murmurs among his non-Hasidic colleagues for they shared similar goals. (Anyone who imagines that many judges let an instance of (Baba Batra47b) pass unimpeded through their hands is rather naive.) There is no precedent or parallel to the hundreds of prescriptions of the which flowed ceaselessly from the Hasidic pen. It altered the contours of the Pietists' daily life and could only arouse astonishment, consternation, and opposition among those in whom the ideals of the movement struck no responsive chord. It is in the sweeping that we can grasp the Hasidic daring and it was here that the clash with the establishment was brewing. (As to the claims of “latent antagonism”between and the , see infra,pp. 355–356.)

27. Professor Ben-Sasson has recently (op. cit.)drawn attention to the absence of social protest in R. Eleazar's writings. The latter's indifference to our way of thinking goes much further than that. Not only is R. Eleazar without any desire to alter the social order, but even on a personal plane, the quality of man's relationships with his fellow man scarcely interests him. In the exposition of Pietism that he prefaced to the Rokeah,the qualities of justice and benevolence receive little emphasis, and in his portrait of the Hasid sensitized social relationships are barely adumbrated. The Hilkot Hasidutof R. Eleazar are a propaedeutic to spiritual ascent and selfperfection, in which man's dealings with his brethren hardly figure. When they do appear, it is primarily to the extent that such intercourse affects not the other person's life but the Hasid's own moral development. Yet the formulations of the Ba'al Ha-Rokeah,inward turning and “self-centered”as they be, were accepted by friend and foe alike as the classic summary of the movement's aspirations, something incomprehensible had social ethics occupied anything near the importance commonly attached to them. Moreover, could the two figures of R. Eleazar of Worms and R. Judah Hasid have been so identified and interchanged with one another for seven hundred years, had they parted company over issues which we are told constituted the very core of the movement? In the Sefer Hasidimthoughts of social reform are few and far between, but (following here R. Judah rather than R. Eleazar) many passages indicate a deep and abiding concern with refinement and considerateness in human relations. Real as these sentiments are, they form (as noted in the text) only part of the Hasidic concerns. German Pietism was a religious rather than social movement, and for this reason a person could achieve a commanding, indeed authoritative, position among its adherents even though he was almost bereft of any social consciousness.

28. The actual authorship of R. Judah is not beyond question, but the testament is certainly a product of the movement.

29. Ms. Cambridge Add. 669.2 (supra, n. 7).

30. R. Judah's drive to re-narrate the Bible according to his outlook, and his profound conviction that he was only eliciting the meaning of the text, can perhaps be illustrated by his interpretation of the ha-shekelreported by his son (ms. Cambridge Add. 669.2, fols. 85–86) and reproduced'partially by Ben-Sasson (op. cit.,p. 64). The passage concludes thus: The practical significance of this interpretation, or more accurately its inspiration, is to be found in S.H., 914 as Ben-Sasson points out. (The last two lines of our citation are missing in the Lenin ms. A brief summary of Judah's, R. interpretation is found in ms. British Museum Or. 2853, fol. 21v and reproduced in Revue des Etudes Juives, 76 [1923], 117.)

31. 15 (p. 21), 157, 986, 1046, 1146, 1287, 1289, 1519, 1840.

32. 15 (p. 21), 43, 47, 986, 1289, 1518, 1836, 1964, 1967, Hokmat Ha-Nefesh,22c.

33. Moshab Zekenim 'al Ha-Torah,pp. 74–75 (ms. Cambridge, Add. 669.2, fol. 21v, see supra,n. 7), S.H.,16, 217, and reflected in 1966 (in conjunction with 1725).

34. 4,5,6,47, 110, 199,424, 1325, 1376, 1530, 1673.

35. Abot V:18:

36. 156–160, 478, 600, 738, 1555, 1819, et ad libitum.

37. 37. 18, 157, 158, ms. Bodley Opp. I l l, fol. 178r (and previous footnote).

38. 125, 158, 641, 745, 1035, 1036, 1038. Talmud Torah is to be structured so as to enable maximum public benefit, 762–765, 1495, and innumerable similar instructions are found with regard to the writing of books, e.g., 1739, 1740 et ad libitum.

39. 122, 187, 191, 192, 198, 208, 358, 747, 790, 1968. R. Eleazar of Worms singles this sinner out in Rokeah, Hilkot Yom Ha-Kippurim,216 (ed. Jerusalem, 1960, p. 105).

40. Hokmat Ha-Nefeshfols. 13c, 14a, 25d, and S.H.,815 where the description of ideal love of God runs thus: taken from Rokeah, Hilkot Hasidut, Shoresh 'Ahabah.(See S.H.,1557.)

41. 1, 115–116, 225, 305 (p. 98), 361 (end), 1273; 989, 1295, 1345, based on Shabbat54b, 'Abodah Zarah5a. Obligations extend even to gentiles-1968.

42. 131–135.

43. 125. Cf. Shabbat4a.

44. Prof. Morton Bloomfield has drawn my attention to the theme of bonum commune inAquinas (Sum. TheoL,I, II, Q. 90, A. 2; II, II, Q. 58, A. 5, 6) and the rich literature it has engendered in recent times. I am, however, unaware of the twelfth- and thirteenth-century antecedents of this idea and the measure of its popular diffusion, if any, and therefore cannot say whether it played a role in shaping the Pietists' outlook

45. S.H.,(Bologna) 1, 7, 29. Cf. Baer, op. cit.,p. 9.

46. 1324, 1506, 110, 1328 (1941–2).

47. 'Arugat Ha-Bosem, ed. E. E. Urbach, IV (Jerusalem, 1963), 80–83.

48. S.H.(Bologna), 648. The passage in the Berlin edition (117) is truncated and should be corrected accordingly. (The successful nature of the protest envisioned is clear from the context)

49. Thus in the Munich ms. cited in Kitbe Abraham Epstein (Jerusalem, 1950), 256. The emendation is Epstein's.

50. See the lengthy exposition on Hokmat Ha-Nefesh,23a (cited infra,p.331–332), which clearly reflects contemporary conflicts (and see infra,n. 66). Reference is made in the Sefer Hasidimto certain rules as being operational only if 1591 (1770, 1372, 1382), and elsewhere (1343) the Hasidim are described as being foiled: (and see 989). R. Eleazar of Worms repeats the theme of in Hokmat Ha-Nefesh(19a) and sums up thus: Similar significance should be attached to such actual descriptions of communal proleaders as in 1344 (see infra,n. 70), which concludes and which is echoed in 1968: . see also 1325 (1326). The isolation felt by the Hasid and his need for authoritative support in his struggles is reflected in his wistful interpretation of the Psalmist's words, in 1037: (See infra, n. 83). The opponents won special mention in the Hilkot Yom Ha- Kippurim of Rokeah (supra,n. 39) (see infra,n. 57). (a) is often used by the Pietists to describe those who sought to accept the yoke of the Larger Will, 1, 27–28, 38 (end), 86, et passim;(b) in the aforementioned 1343 refers to the . Compare similarly in 774 with in 27. For the distinctive connotation of tallitin the writings of Haside 'Ashkenaz,see infra,n. 55.

51. Cf. Scholem, op. cit.,pp. 92–93, 96–97. The difficulty entertained in describing the Hasidic demand for indifference to praise or blame as ataraxy,absence of passion, and thus linking their outlook with certain elements in Cynicism which influenced both eastern and western monasticism lies in the emphatic position that they adopted in the age-old controversy of continence versus temperance (supra,p. 324). Had the Hasid aspired to a state of “absence of passions.”it is hard to see how he could have announced repeatedly that the moral man is he who curbs rather than represses his appetites. The passions animating the people in S.H.are intense, and no interest is displayed in combatting this state of affairs. Much advice is given on how to restrain and channel those drives, but little, if any, direction is provided as to how to deaden them. That this is not simply a pis alteris evidenced by sections 52–53 of S.H.The Hasid there received an inquiry, in great detail and vividness, whether it was permissible, perhaps even commendable, for someone to cultivate his baser passions intentionally so as to curb them all the more dramatically at the crucial moment. Was it allowable to stimulate regularly one's appetite for revenge, theft, or sex by either lying in ambush, fingering buried treasures, or engaging in incestuous sexual foreplay for the purpose of stopping short just as the impulse was coming to climax? The Hasidic mentor (he-hakam)to whom the question was put found himself at a loss for an answer (!) and, in his perplexity, referred the inquirers to a rosh-yeshibah,who replied decisively in the negative. This story is admittedly extreme and quite possibly is a literary invention, but it does bespeak an atmosphere where “action in the line of greatest resistance”is held up as an ideal and one wholly alien to any aspirations for “absence of passion.”(One can hardly imagine Diogenes or Benedict being asked such questions.) There is no attempt in deaden any feelings other than those of humiliation and hurt. Answer could be made that the Hasidim were anything but consistent, and while they gave free range to feelings in some spheres, they sought to dull them in another. But then the question arises why this particular configuration of incon instancy? Why were the Pietists immune to contemporary notions of ataraxyin all areas other than that of social opprobrium? Was it need that determined this pattern of acceptance and rejection? (a) The contention that the Pietists could not aspire to deaden the sexual drive because of the traditional importance of marital life in Judaism collides with the fact that there is no attempt at ataraxyin other spheres either. Furthermore, the Hasidic acceptance of marital sex was not an attitude forced upon them by tradition. Had the Pietists wished to denigrate, or even to downplay, carnal enjoyment, numerous Talmudic dicta (such as and the like) lay readily at hand to be invoked and elaborated upon. Numerous ascetically oriented writers from Rabad of Posquieres to R. Joseph Caro expatiated on these passages; the Pietists scarcely mention them. [Contrast, for example, S.H.with Shulhan 'Aruk, 'Orah Hayyim240:8; 'Eben Ha-'Ezer25:2.]. S.H.advocates, or at least exudes, an almost lusty enjoyment of marital life, (b) Note also that indifference to criticism is not counselled just for those aspiring to illumination or debekut,but to all who sought the name “Hasid."

52. See my forthcoming Circumstance, Custom and Halakah in the Thought of the Tosafists.

53. Rokeah, Hilkot Hasidut, Shoresh 'Ahabah; S.H.,815, 978, 986. See ms. Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Munich) 232, fols. 110v-111r:

54. 1036, 986, 976, 1589, (Bologna) 57 (and see S.H.,439). The tallitas a symbol of Hasidutis reflected in 1344 (see supra,n. 50).

55. Teshubot Maharam(Prague, 1608), 287.

56. Even the Pietists realized that their new prescriptions would appear strange in the eyes of the world, see S.H.,28

57. R. Samuel Hasid in S.H., 2(p. 5), Rokeah: Hilkot Hasidut, Shoresh Hasidut; Arugat Ha-Bosem,IV, 103; S.H.,118, 119, 975–978, 982 et ad libitum.

58. It should be emphasized that once the doctrine of indifference was developed, it may well have served the further purpose of spiritual ascent. For this reason the adjective “immediate”was employed in the text. Though one might note that nowhere does S.H.counsel the would-be Pietist to commit acts that would invite ridicule, rather it emphasizes that to become a Hasid one must be ready to endure it. The line between immanent development and practical necessity is a thin one. Too thin, perhaps, to be discerned seven hundred years later, and it is wisest when the two forces may be at work to eschew assigning pride of place to one over the other.

59. The largest bloc of regulations in the Sefer Hasidimtouch on these topics: 393–543; 1568–1632 and innumerable mentions throughout S.H.

60. 470–471.

61. 585.

62. 1591 (see 443, 444).

63. 403 (for further isolation see 60).

64. 470, 1619–1620, Hokmat Ha-Nefesh,fol. 23a.

65. 404–405, 1621.

66. 418, 450, 839, 1620, and see infra,n. 70.

67. 444. (There are two passages where the Hasid is advised to use caution in translating his precepts into communal reform [1085, 602]. However, the material gathered in this section of the essay indicates, I hope, that the Pietist did not always allow himself to be guided by such pragmatic counsel.)

68. 68. 470; Hokmat Ha-Nefesh,fol. 23a (corrected according to mss. Parma 2784, Bodley Opp. 109). (This section in its entirety was written in the spring of 1967. Since then, Prof. Ben-Sasson [op. cil.,pp. 72–77] has called attention to these passages to illustrate, among other things, the deep tension that existed between the Pietists and the establishment, a point with which, needless to say, we concur. The purpose of our lengthy citations is to align them with coming sections of as to demonstrate just how idiosyncratic the Hasidic terminology is and how meaningless it is to take Hasidic descriptions and evaluations at face value.)

69. 1620 (see supra,n. 66).

70. 1575. (See also Tur, 'Orah Hayyim,113). See Tashbez(Jerusalem, 1951).219: Perhaps the great scholar mentioned by R. Judah Hasid has not received quite the sympathy he may have deserved: (Or Zuara, II, 42. cited in a gloss to S.H.,p. 126). See S.H.,1343: (See supra,n. 50, for the connotation of , and supra,nn. 54–55, for the significance of tallitin the preceding description.)

71. 1620.

72. The harsh accusations of the Pietists that the religious establishment had failed in its duties of leadership ( and the like) should be taken at a similar discount. No doubt there were instances of scholars and communal leaders who were lax in enforcing religious norms, but the Pietists' indictment was more a product of their outlook than a reflection of reality. Among the manifold talents of man discovered by the Hasidim was his capacity for foresight, and much of Sefer Hasidimis a summons to anticipate the consequences of his conduct and to act accordingly. This sense of foresight, which together with the Pietists' “fear of sinning”(yir'at ha-het),induced the doctrine of making “fences around the law”(seyag)for errors which could have been prevented, came perilously close to being considered deliberate acts of will (e.g., 875. 1439). Religious life must be so ordered as to put a large and untraversable distance between man and sin, and a good part of their instructions are an attempt at just such a structuring. The standard canons of religiosity, with their allowances for unintended failings and occasional inability to perform a commandment, were then wholly inadequate, and indeed verged on condoning the criminal. Furthermore, the demands of the Pietists for the full mobilization of man's abilities in the service of God, and their concomitant refusal to allow for any routinization of the religious imperative, made their clash with the establishment inevitable. The tendency of any established order to turn a blind eye to certain entrenched infractions, or infractions difficult to prove and even more difficult to correct, its awareness that a measure of laxity among some members of the community was inevitable and that attempts to improve matters might strain the social fabric or bring a measure of unreasonableness in religious demands, were all an anathema to the Hasidim. They knew man as few of their contemporaries did, but they probed his frailties to overcome them, not to rest content with them. Whether a whole society would tolerate such sustained correction, whether it would agree to live at a level of unremitting religious tension, were questions they felt that a concerned believer had no right to ask before he acted. Others thought differently.

73. Cf. supra,n. 70. Every movement, one might add, has its lunatic fringe who give it a bad odor, and Haside 'Ashkenazwere no exception. What were the feelings, one wonders, of a weary Tosafist returning home on a Friday from a six-day stint in the bet ha-midrash,to shed his boots for the first time in a week (Urbach, op. cit.,p. 16), passing by the house of an otherwise undistinguished Hasid and witnessing this distinctive imitalio del(628): If the Hasid yet took to preaching to him on his religious inadequacies, little needs to be left to the imagination

74. See, for example, 1272: Whether this dangerous alliance with the secular authorities to ensure religious observance is fact or fiction we do not know, but clearly the author of S.H. sees nothing improper in this unprecedented conduct and cannot understand why the instigator was run out of town. He also considers fire and sword an appropriate punishment for those who thwarted this well meaning hasid. See (Bologna) 534: . Whether a man who lived for the sole purpose of correcting others was an easy or pleasant person to deal with is something to contemplate. (See furthermore 1946; this Hasid apparently had no doubts on that score.) (In the parallel section in Berlin edition, 1557, the passage reads , which leads one to suspect that perhaps much of the practiced by the usually isolated and powerless Hasid [see infra] consisted of admonishing others. Is it accidental that in the Bologna edition of the S.H., which opens with something akin to a presentation of the principles of the movement [1–20], the imperative of tokahah is discussed at the very outset [5]?)

75. 1952, and see now Scholem, G., “Three Types of Jewish Piety” Eranos-Jahrbuch,38 (1969), 344.

76. 815,980,984,986

77. 1300–1301 and numerous passages on the importance of marrying and the like.

78. 116, 181, (228), 233, 305 (end), (1303) [end]) Hokmat Ha-Nefesh,19a:

79. 1373 (end, indicative also), cf. 116

80. 1300–1301, see the remarks of Baer, op. cit., p. 47. (Cf. 786.)

81. 1337, 1340, 1341, 1795, 1845 (1286, example in 1344).

82. One would expect a doctrine similar to that of R. Eliezer of Metz (Yere'im Ha-Shalem,223) (or Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilkot De'otVI:7); one finds instead (1338, 1971) that of R. Moses of Coucy and R. Isaac of Corbeil (Semag, I'Aseh]11; Semak,192). R. Moses and R. Isaac are guided in their doctrine by a desire to harmonize the central passage in 'Arakin16b with the passing remark in Yebamot65b. The Pietists are aware of 'Arakin,but appear unaware of Yebamot(see 1338). Experience, not dialectic, speaks here (S.H.[Bologna], 39 proves much less, for the people there act out of ignorance. is an old Halakic principle, and was generally accepted as restricting tokahah.See Tosafot Shabbat55a, section 5 of the Bologna edition does reflect an unrestricted doctrine of tokahah.For this reason, I have used the term “generally."

83. Hokmat Ha-Nefesh,fols. 19a, 23a, 25d; S.H.,1049. (Some caution should be employed with 225, as it is simply one of forty examples of , see 222–224.) Cf. Scholem, op. cit.,p. 90; Ben-Sasson, op. cit.,pp. 74–77; and supra,n. 68.

84. Hokmat Ha-Nefesh,fol. 25a. (See supra,p. 332 and notes ad loc, S.H.,1037 [cited supra,n. 50], 811, [1536], and the Hasid's dreams of ideal talmud torahin 1838, end. One might possibly begin to take with a grain of salt such famous passages as 1816, 1375, though no doubt there could have been cases of genuine . See infra,p. 342.)

85. Hokmat Ha-Nefesh,fol. 20b. Despite what his defense mechanism may have told him of the disruptions worked by an outside spirit, the Hasid's sense of realism (a sense which accounts for much of the impact of his movement and forms a good part of its disarming charm) did not here abandon him. Even when daydreaming, the Hasid realized that even were he left undisturbed and unconfounded in the world-to-come (as he had every reason to believe he would be), unless his present intellectual equipment were strongly reinforced, he would prove no match for his protagonists

86. E.g., supra,p. 326, SeferHasidim,ms. Zurich Zentralbibliothek, Heid. 51, fol.9v: S.H.,1272 cited and commented upon supra,n. 74. (Need I mention the sensitive, yet at the same time elitist, doctrine of charity set forth in S.H.,857–929, which if implemented would have slashed severely the alms available to the non-Hasidic poor)

87. 187, 191, 358 (cf. 1968), 392 (388), and previous note. The nature of the comes out clearly in 191, where his sin is not in declining guidance in Halakah but in

88. 2 (p. 5, this passage was apparently authored by R. Samuel Hasid), 181, 852, 853.

89. Moshab Zekenim 'al Ha-Torah,24 ( = ms.Cambridge, Add. 669.2, fol. 9v). The Cambridge ms. is slightly abridged, the printed text is corroborated by ms. Moscow Lenin 82, fol. 65r. In the mss. the heading is However, it is clear that R. Judah referred to the next verse. This form of abbreviated reference is a common occurrence in mss.

90. 181. The opening sentence of that section is indeed a paraphrase of the Talmud's advice against harboring suspected murderers. The connotation of rasha'in the second sentence-the one we have quoted-would appear then to be, at best, ambiguous and our use of it open to question. However, the term in that passage indicates that we are not dealing with any clear and present danger. Indeed the term or the phrase in the elaboration that follows indicates that what is feared is not even any physical danger, but some ultimate (religious-cultural) clash of the type described by the Hasid in 1301 or those cited supra,pp. 331–332. Note also that in the concluding sentence the contrast to the aforementioned rasha1is not . All of this leads me to conclude that the term rasha'is being employed here in a distinctly Hasidic fashion, and that the distance traversed by the Hasid by his association of this case with that of the Talmud is correspondingly immense.

91. The burning of the Talmud in 1240 precipitated an institutional crisis in Talmudic studies, not an intellectual one. The creative period of the French Tosafists may be said to have come to a close with R. Samson of Sens' departure for the Holy Land in 1211. If one insists on viewing the year 1240 as a watershed I have no quarrel, for it would only strengthen the argument.

92. Jaeger, W., Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture (Oxford, 19391945, II, 316317; III, 56.

93. De Naluris Rerum, ed. T. Wright (London, 1863), p. 283, and see the entire chapter. (Speaking of the trivium generally, Alexander writes “Potestas est, quae in utramque partem disserit ac si gladium teneat ancipitem.") See infra, n. 114, for other critics of the new dialectic and for parallels between contemporary Jewish and Christian strictures.

94. 1049 (end), 814, 752 (end, a derashahvery indicative of just what the Pietists favored and to what they were opposed). Cf. 784 (1312?).

95. 95. 1816, 1838, 1375, 1037. For the extent to which the rish'utof these scholars was real and not simply a product of the Hasidic perspective, see supra,pp. 330–335.

96. 746; 1440 end: Do we have any guarantee that his tosafotwould have been of any worth? (See infra,p. 343.)

97. 648. The need for practical Halakic knowledge in the period prior to the publication of the Semak, Sha'are Dura,and the like was acute. See, for example, 765.

98. Urbach, E.E., Ba'ale Ha-Tosafot(Jerusalem, 1956), pp. 2223. The report of R. Moses Taku is fully in keeping with what we know of R.T.'s and Ri's personalities. R. Jacob's reaction was apparently unrepeatable (); his nephew's, milder and perhaps wistful. Widespread use of the dialectic, he felt, was more appropriate for Messianic times, when in the words of the prophet “wisdom shall fill the land.”Until then resolution by distinction and radical reinterpretation was best left to the competent few.

99. 664 (cf. 1478), 1748.

100. 1707. For a contemporary example of this from Italy, see the remarks of R. Isaiah of Trani, cited by Urbach, loc. cit.The full text is to be found in Sha'are Toharah,ed. S. Goronchik (Jerusalem, 1940), fol. 88; Teshubot Ha-Rid(Jerusalem, 1967), column 100. See also S.H.,1732.

101. See infra,pp. 345–346.

102. 1707, 648.

103. The commentary of the Mainz academy published under the title Perush Rabbenu Gershom, see Epstein, A., “Der Gerschom Meor ha-Golah zugeschriebene Talmud-Commentar,”Festschrift Moritz Steinschneider (Leipzig, 1896), pp. 115143.

104. It is the academic scene and its pride in creativity that springs first to the Hasid's mind when he speaks of the need for modesty, see 815: See material cited in n. 106. The Pietists' reaction was doubly sharp for they were unaware that the creativity that they took for granted in sections 1950 (p. 473), 1052 and 774, was actually a new phenomenon. (The Berlin edition reads but the Bologna reading seems preferable and is corroborated by several manuscripts of the S.H. The term has often a contemporary connotation. See, for example, 648).

105. 746, 1440, 15 (p. 21), (1950, 1052).

106. 1052, 355. The disappearance of anonymous authorship, which the Pietists mourn (1558, 1955), and the phenomenon of plagiarism (1748, and see supra, n. 100) are parts of the same development. (One cannot help feeling that the giant shadow cast by Rabbenu Tarn should somehow figure in this account. The towering intellect of R. Jacob and his leonine personality inspired awe and admiration among his contemporaries, and such sentiments, especially among students, lead to imitation. It is, however, far easier to copy the style of a man than his genius. The famous in all societies are mimetic figures, and one may wonder whether in this regard the bold and overbearing personality of Rabbenu Tam was a wholly salutary image for a number of people. At the very least R. Jacob legitimized, for those whom nature so inclined, a greater measure of pride and self-assertion than had hitherto been acceptable in the conventional Ashkenazic image of the talmid hakam.)

107. To the material cited in the above note add 15 (p. 21), 648, (Bologna) 958. See also 860, 862, 919 (753).

108. 15 (p. 21), 746, and the endless warnings against talmud torahwithout yir'at shamayim,e.g., 752, 1029, 1053, 1093, 811, 820, 814

109. 754, 756 (note contrast), (Bologna) 17. Compare (Berlin) 862 with 1707: (Ms.Bodley Opp. 340, fol. 134v reads in section 17 [of Bologna]: )

110. 110. We are here focusing on what was distinctive in the conception of talmud torah.As all uniqueness in a traditional society is only partial, these orientations prevented neither the Polish nor the German Hasid from often engaging in the traditional modes and experiences of study.

111. (Bologna) 17; 1474 (end), 1475.

112. E. E. Urbach, 'Arugat Ha-Bosem,IV, 1 ff. The late Dr. Daniel Goldschmidt once remarked to me that the reason Rashi penned his piyyutim(which add no luster to his name) was that it was expected at that time that the well-rounded talmid hakamhad to be able to compose some religious poetry upon the proper occasion. “Oh, roughly analogous,”he added, “to a derashahin our days. He [a scholar] needn't be a darshan,but he should be able to say some appropriate words as occasion demands."

113. This is the type of statement for which it is difficult to cite book and verse. Yet close to a decade's work in the literature of the eleventh century has given me the sustained impression that Rashi is unique in the near total cohesion of his thought and in the lucidity of his presentation, but hardly atypical in character and general bearing. Rashi is simply a sterling (and prominent) example of a pre- Crusade Rhineland scholar. Dr. Abraham Grossman of Hebrew University, who has made the most exhaustive study of the figures of the period (soon to be published), has concurred with this impression.

114. On a simple, technical level, see, for example, Urbach, op. cit.,p. 110. Parallels can be found, mutatis mutandis,in contemporary Christian literature, for much of the Pietists' strictures, such as the preemption of interest by dialectic, the crowding out of other disciplines and the cultural imbalance that follows, curriculum distortions and the precipitous introduction of the student to the new technique, the opening of positions to the unqualified and the increasing study for the sake of fame and self-advancement. See, for example,Baldwin, John W., Masters, Princes and Merchants: The Social Views of Peter Chanter and His Circle(Princeton, 1970) I, 8186, 100, 130–131, and notes, ad loc;U. T. Holmes “Transitions in European Education,”in M. Clagett, G. Post and R. Reynolds (eds.), Twelfth Century Europe and the Foundations of Modern Society.The Pietists' critiques are few and their language mild indeed, in comparison with what Neckham, Gerald of Cambridge, Jacques de Vitry, and John of Salisbury, among others, had to say about the misuses of the new logic and its adverse effects. What must be kept in mind, however, is that Jews had no tradition of rhetoric whose avowed aim was suasion rather than truth-a tradition which would instantly adopt dialectic to its purpose-, no institution of disputatioand no curriculum of sophismata logicalia,both of which would at once hasten and heighten the ill uses to which dialectic could be put. Nor could Halakic eminence open the gate to any equivalent career of high service to prince or churchman as could Roman or canon law. Tosafism was prestigious but hardly a “lucrative science."

115. Ben-Sasson (op. cit.,pp. 77–78) has drawn attention to this fact. See also Hokmat Ha-Nefesh,fol. 14a. (S.H.,1546 says the same thing as Hokmat Ha-Nefesh,but I do not believe that it can be brought as proof of an aspiration.) Section 1838, to which Prof. Ben-Sasson draws attention, is probably the best description of the Hasidic ideal of talmud torah.

116. Talmud torahis never a means for achieving another and higher religious end, although if undertaken in the proper spirit, it should lead to a deepening of yir'at shamayim(see supra).Furthermore there is no passage, to the best of my knowledge, where talmud toraheven connotes the exclusive study of Hasidic lore, though quite naturally such an inquiry is often included in the term. (See, for example, J. Dan, op. cit. [supra,n. 7], p. 171, n. 8.)

117. E.g., 1474, 768, 769, 771 (this last section seemed excessive to some subsequent generations and the parallel passage in the Bologna S.H. [1954] was omitted in several printings of that work, such as Sulzbach [1685J, Frankfurt [1743], Zolkiew [1785]), 774, 775, 1796, et ad libitum.

118. Contrast Baba Batra8a: with S.H. 807, To the Hasidic mind the point of the Biblical narrative of Joseph's treatment of the landed holdings of the Egyptian priests is to teach us that scholars are exempt from taxation. This is the very raison d'etre of the passage. (See supra,n. 7.) The Hasidic tradition reported by R. Joseph Ibn Ezra, to which Ben-Sasson (op. cit.,p. 66) has drawn attention, is entirely in keeping with what we know of their outlook: The attitude in the above story is slightly tempered by their remarks in section 1392, where they counsel a scholar to share in the communal burden only if he is able. Note, however, that this is a voluntary participation on his part and not an obligatory one, and they never counsel the community to make it such. While the attitude of Haside 'Ashkenazto 'amnte ha-'arezis beyond the scope of this essay, one simple example may indicate how much more complex and ambivalent was their relationship to the unlettered than is commonly imagined. One would hardly expect the chilling dictum of the Yerushalmi (Horayot111:4) lan nttJX mO3 to appear on the pages of SeferHasidim.Yet it does in section 1676, without any apparent qualms on the part of the writer, such as those which troubled some Halakists (e.g., Pene Mosheh, ad loc; Shak, Yoreh De'ah,151:16). That this is no mechanical citation nor literary ballast carried without any real awareness of its import can be seen from the end of the section, where the Hasid qualifies the definition of both niO3 and that of 13n nWS-to align the dictum with his sense of right and wrong-but takes quite literally and without any apparent compunction.

119. This was noted by Ben-Sasson (op. cit.).

120. Cf. E. E. Urbach, op. cit., pp. 328 ff.

121. See Ibid., pp. 334 ff. The precise level of R. Eleazar's attainments in dialectic deserves a separate study

122. I add “certified”because R. Samuel Hasid has also a Halakic work to his credit. However, since next to nothing of it has survived, we can evaluate neither the man nor his posture.

123. Soloveitchik, H., Mashkon We-'Areb: Shene Mehkarim Be-Ribbit XJ-Be- Toledot Ha-Halakah Be-Galut(Dissertation, Hebrew University, 1972), pp. 52 ff.; idem,"Can Halakic Texts Talk History”in the forthcoming issue of the Bulletin of the Institute of Jewish Studies.I have in this paragraph borrowed several formulations from that article.

124. J. Dan, op. cit. (supra n. 7), p. 171: inquired of the late Prof. Ephraim Gottlieb whether he felt these words were a stock-in-trade preface penned simply to justify committing esoteric knowledge to writing. His reply was in the negative.

125. It is doubtful whether anyone less than a certified aristocrat could have risked propounding, in Ashkenaz, the strange and novel demands of the rezon ha- Bore and not be run out of town, not to speak of his winning a hearing

126. German Hasidism is often described as a popular movement. Much depends on the sense in which the term is used. If by “popular” one wishes to say that it reflects beliefs and attitudes current in Germany at the time in contradistinction to the outlook of the received “canonized” literature, there is a good deal of truth to this description. If it denotes sympathy with the victims of injustice and a desire to right things, the term is again being used accurately. If the statement means that German Hasidism arose from the “populus,” from the simple or under-privileged sectors of the community, it is demonstrably false. If “popular” implies that Hasidic ideas found a receptive audience in those downtrodden segments and drew from them adherents, the assertion is unproven. We know absolutely nothing of the social origins of any Hasid other than those three founders and theoreticians of the movement, R. Samuel, R. Judah, and R. Eleazar, bluebloods all

127. I should hasten to add that the vehicles of expansion were utterly different. The Hasid did not derive the Larger Will through any use of the new dialectic, but rather (to put it roughly) made normative the moral suggested to him by a Biblical or Talmudic narrative. His approach was intuitive rather than technical, associative rather than discursive

128. Is it accidental that R. Judah Hasid, when struggling angrily to uphold the liturgical text of his movement, labels other variants as “the French practice,” even though these variants were no French innovation, but had been recited equally in Ashkenaz and go back to Geonic times (Urbach, ′Arugat Ha-Bosem, IV, 92 ff.)? Or was this simply an admission that the legitimation for these variants, so contrary to his ideas and traditions, stemmed from its receiving French endorsement? Was he not saying in effect that his text was under French pressure?

129. Professor Aaron Mirsky has confirmed this impression of mine and further informed me that the material in manuscript presents the same picture.

130. Urbach, Ibid., pp. 6–23.

131. Rabbenu Tam is a transitional figure in this regard. The correlation in France between knowledge of the pre-Crusade literature and the involvement in piyyut is perhaps worth noting. R. Meir of Rameru and Rashbam possessed a firm familiarity with this lore, R. Tam far less. R. Isaac of Dampierre was either ignorant of this world or oblivious to it. (See Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research, 38–39 [1970–1971], 255, n. 98.)

132. A few salient points of a theme that will be developed in detail elsewhere: no cantor of the thirteenth century possessed anything approaching the standing of R. Meir sheliah zibbur of the eleventh century or that of R. Eleazar Hazan of Speyer in the early twelfth. Elections of cantors first appear in the latter half of the twelfth century, as do salaries. I do not mean to imply by the phrase “religious functionary” a low communal standing for the cantor—R. Joseph Hazan is after all one of the signators of the Takkanol Shum—but that he is no longer a central religious figure, no longer a keeper of the secrets of prayer or arbiter and guardian of its potent text. This cannot be attributed to the decision of the Pietists to disseminate their lore, for the decline is noticeable before the decision of R. Judah and R. Eleazar to “go public” as it were. (See J. Dan, op. cit. [supra n. 7], p. 173.) Needless to say, this decline was accelerated and intensified in the outlying settlements and slower in the old centers, see ‘Or Zaru’a, I, 113. (One could object that the question of elections first appears in the literature of the early thirteenth century not because elections were relatively new, but because the traditional principle of election-unanimity-was coming under increasing pressure from the new concept of majority rule. I can only counter that to my mind the received picture of communal organization is in error. Ashkenazic communities were at all times run by the majority principle. This position will be argued in detail in the forthcoming She′elot U-Teshubot Ke-Makor Histori.) It may be instructive to draw attention to the codicological discoveries of Dr. M. Beit-Arie and his staff at the Institute of Hebrew Paleography. “Bookmaking” in Germany undergoes a transformation during the thirteenth century. From 1233 on a novel process of preparation of hides is discernible which comes to fruition by 1264. By the same date a new system of rulings and prickings comes to the fore. We do not know how French manuscripts were prepared as almost no manuscripts with French colophons have survived. Thus we have no right to attribute this transformation to the growing French influence. One might, however, note that two of the three codicological changes that took place in German Hebrew manuscripts during the thirteenth century occurred in England amongst Latin manuscripts in the wake of the Norman conquest! (SeeBeit-Arie, M., “Tekunot Kodikologiyyot Ki-Behanim Paleografiyyim Be-Kitbe Yad ′Ibriyyim Bi-Yeme Ha- Benayim” Kiryat Sefer, 45 [1970], 435446, especially p. 444, n. 30. The dates given in the article are 1254 and 1272. Subsequent research, however, has advanced them respectively, Dr. Beit-Arie tells me, to 1233 and 1264. It is these dates that I have employed.)

133. Some of these traits had achieved, as early as the eleventh century, an intensified embodiment in certain isolated individuals, as for example the excessively humble style of the Makirites, the self-effacement of R. Jacob ben Yakar (not to speak of his unique Divine service of floor sweeping, [991]), and the literalism, perishut, and possible stringency of R. Sasson. From a study of the literature of pre-Crusade Jewry one obtains the impression that certain general values of the period, which attained occasionally extreme individual realization, were adopted and intensified by the Pietists, placed in a fresh conceptual framework, and made normative. (For the traits of the above-mentioned scholars, seeGrossman, A., Toledot Ha-Sifrut Ha-Rabbanit Be-′Ashkenaz U-Be-Zarfat Ha-Zefonit Ba-Me′ah Ha-′Ahat-′Esreh [Dissertation, Hebrew University, 1973], pp. 320–21; cf. pp. 172 ff., 243 ff. See his remarks about R. Isaac b. Mosheh, Ibid., pp. 297–98. Though I would take exception to some of the instances that Grossman adduces for his portrait of R. Sasson, I nevertheless find myself in agreement with his overall evaluation of that scholar.)

134. Cf. Baer, op. cit., pp. 12–13.

135. Cf. Scholem, op. cit. (supra, n. 8), p. 94.

136. Scholem, op.cit. (supra, n. 75), p. 341.

* Profs. G. Scholem, J. Katz, H. H. Ben-Sasson, and Morton Bloomfield were kind enough to comment on the manuscript. For the errors and perversities still remaining the author alone bears responsibility.

All numerical references refer to Sefer Ḥasidim (Berlin, 1891). When in the course of a sentence a simple numeral would be unclear, it has been prefaced with “S.Ḥ.” When reference is made to the Bologna edition, this is specifically indicated. The Safed edition of the Ḥokmat ha-Nefesh was used. All manuscripts cited were viewed at the Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts of the Jewish National and University Library in Jerusalem.

Three Themes in the Sefer Ḥasidim*

  • Haym Soloveitchik (a1)


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