Major work in the field of ethics, produced by the Jews of medieval Germany. It comprises the ethical teachings of the Hasidei Ashkenaz movement in the 12th and early 13th centuries. Many of the passages in Sefer Hasidim are homiletic and exegetic in nature, explaining the ethical, and sometimes the philosophical or mystical, meanings of biblical verses or talmudic sayings. Most of the passages, however, discuss only ethics, and do so in direct connection with everyday life. Sefer Hasidim is the prime example of pragmatic and realistic ethical teachings in Jewish ethical literature; it takes into account the special characteristic of every case, the psychology of the person discussed, the historical and economic situation, and the person's special relationship to other people. This approach renders Sefer Hasidim the most important historical source for the study of everyday Jewish life in medieval Germany; it throws light especially on economic and religious relations of Jews with gentiles. The book has some descriptions of actual incidents, clarifying the situation in Germany during and after the disasters brought by the crusaders on Jews in Germany and France. Later Jewish ethical works influenced by Sefer Hasidim retained its strict and uncompromising adherence not only to the commandments, but to the entire body of religious ethics. The book instructs the pious man how to resist temptation and avoid any situation which may lead to sin. It teaches how to dress, to speak, to pray, to work, and to sleep; how to choose a wife and to select friends; how to harmonize between the necessities of existence and the requirements of religious life; which city is suitable for a pious person to live in and which is not; the right relationship between teacher and pupil; how to choose a righteous teacher; in what fields one may have commercial contact with gentiles and how to treat them, and many other subjects. No other Hebrew work in ethics covers so much ground and devotes such close attention to realistic detail. All later writers in the field of ethics in Ashkenazi literature used Sefer Hasidim as a basis; many of them added very little to what they had taken from it. After the 15th century, writers of halakhah used the work as an authority, sometimes the final authority, on the Jewish way of life.
R. Judah b. Samuel he-Hasid; (Judah of Regensburg; c. 1150–1217), 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 R. Abraham is described as the 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; R. Abraham b. Azriel, the author of Arugat ha-Bosem, used an appellation which hints at his name by the use of notarikon and gematria. His descendants helped propagate his teachings. His son R. Moses wrote a commentary on the Pentateuch; his grandson R. Eleazar b. Moses ha-Darshan wrote works in esoteric theology, and his great-grandson, R. Moses b. Eleazar, who was a kabbalist, tried to harmonize Ashkenazi-hasidic teaching with the Kabbalah. However, his most prominent pupil, whose writings popularized Judah's teachings among the Jews in Germany and elsewhere, was R. Eleazar b. Judah of Worms. Even though R. 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 R. 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-Yihud ("The Secret of G-d'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., R. Eleazar of Worms' Sefer ha-Hokhmah. In ethics, his main work was his contribution to the Sefer Hasidim, of which he was the principal author. R. Eleazar edited a short treatise on teshuvah ("repentance") which Judah wrote, and a short collection of ethical and magical paragraphs was published as Zavva'at Rabbi Yehudah he-Hasid ("The Will of Rabbi Judah the Pious," Cracow, 1891).
עיין: ר' יעקב עמדין, שאילת יעבץ, [חלק א], אלטונא תצ"ט, סי' קס, דף קמ,ב, "שבפירוש הנדפס מחדש סביב לס"ח יש שם שיבושים, וטעיות הרבה טעה אותו המפרש". ועיין: ר' יוסף דוד זינצהיים, יד דוד, חלק א, אופיבאך תקנ"ט, דף כה, ד, שהשיב על דברי יעבץ וכתב: "וצדקו דבריו של המפרש לספר חסידים (הוא היה זקנו של אבא מ"ו ההסיד ז"ל ושמו בקרבי)... הרב יעבץ... לא הבין כוונת מורי זקני... ". על-פי פרנקפורט דמיין תע"ג.
הסכמה: ר' יעקב [ב"ר בנימין] הכהן (כ"ץ) [פאפירש] מפראג, ורנקבורט דמיין, ג אדר תפ"ד.