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|Author||Judah ben Samuel of Regensburg|
|Subject||Teachings of the Chassidei Ashkenaz|
The Sefer Hasidim or Sefer Chassidim (Hebrew: ספר חסידים, Book of the Pious) is a text by Judah ben Samuel of Regensburg, a foundation work of the teachings of the Chassidei Ashkenaz ("Pious Ones of Germany"). It offers an account of the day-to-day religious life of Jews in medieval Germany, and their customs, beliefs, and traditions. It presents the combined teachings of the three leaders of German Hasidism during the 12th and 13th centuries: Samuel the Chassid, Judah the Chassid of Regensburg (his son), and Elazar Rokeach.
The book contains ethical, ascetic, and mystical teachings, intermingled with elements of German popular belief. It deals (§§ 1-13) with piety (heading, Shemuel; so-called Sefer HaYir'ah); (§§ 14-26), reward and punishment, penitence, the hereafter, etc. (heading, Sefer HaḤasidim; so-called Sefer Teshuvah); (§§ 27-489), authorship of the book, pride, the hereafter and retribution, penitence and sinful desires, fasting and fast-days, suspicion, public mortification, martyrdom, etc. (heading, Zeh Sefer ha-Ḥasidim); (§§ 490-638), the Sabbath; (§§ 639-746), tefillin, ẓiẓit, mezuzot, books; (§§ 747-856), the study of the Law; (§§ 857-929), charity; (§§ 930-970), reverence for parents; (§§ 971-1386), piety, worship of God, prayer, visiting the sick, etc.; (§§ 1387-1426), excommunication and oaths; the final paragraphs repeat and amplify upon matter previously discussed.
It consists, according to the edition of Basel, of 1,172 paragraphs; according to the last edition, of 1,903. Chosen parts have been translated into German by Zunz. The Book of the Pious is an exceedingly rich source for the Kulturgeschichte of the Jews in the Middle Ages.
Authorship and history
Sefer Hasidim is not a uniform work, nor is it the product of one author. It has been said that Samuel he-Ḥasid is the author of the first twenty-six sections. In its present form the book contains, according to Güdemann, three revisions of the same original work, of which Judah is undoubtedly the author; and both the contents and language of the book indicate that it originated in Germany. Important additions were made also by Judah's pupil Eleazar Roḳeaḥ, for which reason the authorship of the whole work has sometimes been ascribed to him. On account of the fact that collectors and copyists used varying recensions, sometimes the same passage occurs two or three times in different parts of the Sefer Ḥasidim. Some fragments of other books are inserted. This Hebrew book originated between the late 12th and early 13th centuries in the Rhineland, shortly after the Second Crusade. After this time, it circulated widely. It influenced the distinctive religious practices and Hebrew literary style of Jews in Ashkenaz and also shaped the discourse about Jewish ethics in medieval Europe and beyond.
The book has been printed many times since 1538.
Several manuscripts are in existence, some more extensive than others. An edition based on the Parma manuscript, published by Chevra Mekitzei Nirdamim in 1891, was reprinted in 1955. Recently Otzar haPoskim Institute has published an elaborate version with numerous commentaries.
Commentaries on Sefer Hasidim
- Brit Olam by Chaim Joseph David Azulai, with additions Shomer ha-Brit
- Mishnat Chassidim by Saadia Helvona
- Mekor Chesed by Reuvein Margolies (1924, printed in the Mossad Harav Kook edition)
- Mishnat Avraham by Avraham Aharon Price (1955, Mikitzei Nirdamim edition)
- "Sefer Hasidim". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 6 February 2013.
- Zunz, Z. G. pp. 135-142; comp. Zunz, Literaturgesch. p. 299; Grätz, Gesch. vi. 215
- see Berliner, Aus dem Inneren Leben; Abrahams, Jewish Life in the Middle Ages
- see ed. Wistinetzki, p. 490, note; Epstein, l.c. p. 94
- Güdemann, Erziehungswesen, Vienna, 1880, p. 281, note iv.
- see Epstein, l.c. p. 93
- As § 33, Isaac Alfasi's Halakot; § 36, Saadia Gaon's Emunot we-De'ot; § 431, Yerushalmi Berakhot; §§ 30-32, R. Nissim's Megillat Setarim
- "Sefer Hasidim". Princeton University. Retrieved 6 February 2013.
- Bologna, 1538; Basel, 1580, and often reprinted; see Steinschneider, Cat. Bodl. col. 1320; published according to De Rossi MS. No. 1133 [which contains many variant readings and represents an older text] in Meḳiẓe Nirdamim collection by Judah Wistinetzki, Berlin, 1891-93
- Hebrew text available on Sefaria