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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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On Reading Sefer Ḥasidim

On Reading Sefer Ḥasidim

Chapter:
(p.179) Chapter Eight On Reading Sefer Ḥasidim
Source:
Collected Essays
Author(s):

Haym Soloveitchik

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.3828/liverpool/9781904113997.003.0009

This chapter addresses Ivan Marcus's Piety and Society: The Jewish Pietists of Medieval Germany (1981). It looks at his manner of reading and interpreting Sefer Ḥasidim. Marcus insists on the need of often taking such terms in Sefer Ḥasidim as resha'im (wicked people), peritsim (immoral people, einam mehugganim (dishonest people or people who act improperly/immorally), and the like quite literally, and to see in them a reflection of a wayward, indeed criminal, segment of the Ashkenazic community. The Pietists saw the world the way sects do, as being divided into two groups — we and all others. They viewed all non Pietists as being one and alike, whether they were religious or not, and in a limited sense not differing from the Gentiles. This allows all texts in which resha'im, peritsim, and the like are mentioned, whether they refer to actual murderers and wastrels or to scholars and religious poets who opposed the Pietists, to be cited interchangeably as evidence of the exclusivity of the Pietists. It is with this equation and its consequences that one may take issue. The chapter then offers some ground rules that should be employed in drawing inferences from Sefer Ḥasidim.

Keywords:   Ivan Marcus, Sefer Ḥasidim, German Pietism, Ashkenazic community, German Pietists

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