Judah ben Samuel he-Ḥasid

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JUDAH BEN SAMUEL HE-ḤASID (c. 1150–1217), main teacher of the *Ḥasidei Ashkenaz movement. Judah was one of the most prominent scholars of the Middle Ages in the fields of ethics and theology. He probably lived some time in Speyer and then moved to Regensburg (he was sometimes called "Rabbi Judah of Regensburg"). Very little of his life is known from contemporary sources. However, many legends about his life dating from 15th- and 16th-century sources have survived. In them, he is described as a mystic (whereas his brother Abraham is described as a scholar of halakhah) who performed many miracles in order to save the Jews from the gentiles. Judah taught and practiced extreme humility. He even forbade an author to sign a book he wrote, because his sons might take pride in their father's fame. This seems to be the reason why his works were circulated as anonymous works. Even his pupils did not quote his works by name; *Abraham b. Azriel, the author of Arugat ha-Bosem, used the title רי״ח, בש״ם, ניחו״ח (Re'aḥ Bosem Niḥo'aḥ) when he quoted him, an appellation which hints at his name by the use of *notarikon and *gematria. His descendants helped propagate his teachings. His son Moses wrote a commentary on the Pentateuch; his grandson *Eleazar b. Moses ha-Darshan wrote works in esoteric theology, and his great-grandson, Moses b. Eleazar, who was a kabbalist, tried to harmonize Ashkenazi-ḥasidic teaching with the Kabbalah. However, his most prominent pupil, whose writings popularized Judah's teachings among the Jews in Germany and elsewhere, was *Eleazar b. Judah of Worms. Even though Judah did not write in the field of halakhah and ritual practice, many later Ashkenazi writers depended on his teachings and practices in their works. Most of Judah's writings in esoteric theology have not survived. His major work was probably Sefer ha-Kavod ("Book of Divine Glory"), of which only quotations in later works have survived. He also wrote a voluminous commentary on the prayers, of which only a small part is known today. Besides these major works, a few small ones have survived: Sod ha-Yiḥud ("The Secret of God's Unity"); exegesis of a few piyyutim; and some short magical treatises. Because he did not sign his writings, some works by others have been attributed to him, e.g., Eleazar of Worms' Sefer ha-Ḥokhmah. In ethics, his main work was his contribution to the Sefer Ḥasidim, of which he was the principal author. Eleazar edited a short treatise on teshuvah ("repentance") which Judah wrote, and a short collection of ethical and magical paragraphs was published as Ẓavva'at Rabbi Yehudah he-Ḥasid ("The Will of Rabbi Judah the Pious," Cracow, 1891).


J. Dan, Torat ha-Sod shel Ḥasidei Ashkenaz (1968), 50–59; idem, in: Tarbiz, 30 (1961), 273–289; Bruell, in: jjgl, 9 (1889), 1–71; Scholem, Mysticism, 80–118; E.E. Urbach, Arugat ha-Bosem 4 (1963), 73–111; J. Freimann, Sefer Ḥasidim (19242), 1–15 (in-trod.).

[Joseph Dan]