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Collected EssaysVolume III$
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Haym Soloveitchik

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781904113997

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781904113997.001.0001

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Three Themes in Sefer Ḥasidim

Three Themes in Sefer Ḥasidim

Chapter:
(p.5) Chapter One Three Themes in Sefer Ḥasidim
Source:
Collected Essays
Author(s):

Haym Soloveitchik

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.3828/liverpool/9781904113997.003.0001

This chapter discusses how R. Yehudah he-Ḥasid's sense of right and justice, what he termed din shamayim (heavenly law), had little in common with halakhic norms; it resembled instead the 'natural law' of the Stoics, a sense of justice imprinted in all men's minds that guided them to a common perception of the right and the equitable. The meaning often given to din shamayim, the centrality attributed to it in the German Pietists' thought, and the image of the-Ḥasid as torn (consciously or not) between two competing sources of authority reveal more about the outlook of modern Jewish historiography than about the thinking of those medieval German Jews who so aspired to the epithet 'Ḥasidim'. The chapter then questions whether the celebrated remarks of Sefer Ḥasidim about talmud Torah and talmidei ḥakhamim constituted a theoretical evaluation of these institutions and thus expressed a basic axiological critique, or whether these words arose from a distinct historical context and possessed a specific address. It is the tosafist movement that forms the backdrop to Ḥasidei Ashkenaz. Much of Sefer Ḥasidim, both good and bad, is a product of and a response to the disruptive effects of the new dialectic.

Keywords:   din shamayim, halakhic norms, natural law, German Pietists, German Jews, talmud Torah, talmidei ḥakhamim, Sefer Ḥasidim, tosafist movement, Ḥasidei Ashkenaz

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