Ethical writer and mystic; died Feb. 22, 1217 ("Oẓar Ṭob," 1878, p. 045; Berliner, "Magazin," 1876, p. 220; "Kerem Ḥemed," vii. 71 [erroneously 1216]; "Ben Chananja," iv. 248 [erroneously 1213]). He was descended from an old family of cabalists from the East that had settled in Germany. His grandfather Kalonymus was a scholar and parnas in Speyer (died 1126). His father, also called "He-Ḥasid" (= "the pious"), "Ha-Ḳadosh," and "Ha-Nabi" (Solomon Luria, Responsa, No. 29), was president of a bet ha-midrash in Speyer, and from him Judah, together with his brother Abraham, received his early instruction. Samuel (see A. Epstein in "Ha-Goren," iv. 81 et seq.) died while Judah was still young (idem, "Jüdische Altertümer in Worms und Speier," in "Monatsschrift," xli. 41, 42). About 1195 the latter left his native place and settled in Regensburg (Ratisbon), on account of an "accident" (Moses Minz, Responsa, No. 76)—most probably persecution experienced by the Jews of Speyer generally.

He founded a yeshibah in Regensburg and secured many pupils. Among those who became famous were Eleazar of Worms, author of the "Roḳeaḥ"; Isaac ben Moses of Vienna, author of "Or Zarua'"; and Baruch ben Samuel of Mayence, author of "Sefer ha-Ḥokmah." Eleazar applies to his teacher in several passages terms expressive of the highest esteem, such as "father of wisdom" (Paris MS. No. 772, fol. 73a; comp. Epstein in "Monatsschrift," xxxix. 459).

Judah left one son, Moses Saltman (Epstein, l.c. p. 449, note 7), author of a commentary on several parts of the Bible (see Schiller-Szinessy, "Cat. Hebr. MSS. . . . University Library, Cambridge," p. 159). It has been erroneously supposed that Judah had two other sons, Aaron (Luria, l.c.) and David (Steinschneider, "Hebr. Bibl." iv. 98; Gross, in Berliner's "Magazin," i. 106; Brüll's "Jahrb." ix. 45; Epstein, l.c.).

Legends of His Life.

Legend describes Judah as an excellent bowman who at the age of eighteen was ignorant of the daily prayers. When, however, enlightenment suddenly came upon him he performed many miracles. He restored fertility to a young married woman. The prophet Elijah is said to have partaken of his "Seder" meal and to have been seen by him in a synagogue. He miraculously prevented a Jewish child from being baptized, and knew the exact year of Israel's redemption. He maintained social intercourse with the Bishop of Salzburg and acted as seer for the Duke of Regensburg (Jellinek, "B. H." vi. 139; Grünbaum, "Jüdisch-Deutsche Chrestomathie," p. 385; Brüll's "Jahrb." ix. 20). The report of such intercourse with persons in official positions may perhaps be based on truth.


It is rather difficult to determine in what the new and important departure ascribed to him by legend consisted, since the obscurity spread over his works is as impenetrable as that surrounding his life. The study of the Talmud, especially as it was treated by his contemporaries, seemed to him fruitless. Still, occasionally a halakic writing, "Gan Bosem," is quoted (comp. Zunz, "Z. G." p. 162) as his; a decision of his is found in TaSHBaẒ, § 219 (Zunz, l.c. p. 566), in R. Isaac's "Or Zarua'," and in Meïr Rothenburg's collection of responsa (Zunz, "Literaturgesch." p. 298); and he is found in social intercourse with celebrated halakists of his age.

His commentary on the Pentateuch, written down by his pupils after his lectures, is known only by citations in later commentaries (Zunz, "Z. G." p. 76 et passim; Luzzatto, "Kerem Ḥemed," vii. 71; "Oẓar Ṭob," 1878, p. 045).


He composed liturgical songs, but the authenticity of those attributed to him is uncertain. As regards his (seven parts; the eighth is called ), printed in Tihingen, 1560 (Steinschneider, "Cat. Bodl." No. 3313), and translated into German in S. Heller's "Die Echten Hebräischen Melodien" (ed. Kaufmann), there is very great divergence of opinion, and the question of its authorship is still undecided. According to Zunz ("Literaturgesch." p. 300), it seems to be genuine, as do also his prayer and his seliḥah . More probably, according to the sources (see "Siddur Hegyon Leb," p. 529, Königsberg, 1845), his father, or a certain Samuel Ḥazzan, who died as a martyr at Erfurt in 1121, composed the "Shir ha-Yiḥud," and Judah himself wrote a commentary on it (Landshuth, "'Ammude ha-'Abodah," p. 77; Epstein, in "Ha-Goren," iv. 98). Several prayers are erroneously attributed to Judah; e.g., Zunz wrongly ascribes to him the alphabetical "teḥinnah" (Steinschneider, l.c.; Landshuth, l.c.). He wrote also commentaries onseveral parts of the daily prayers and on the Maḥzor (Zunz, l.c. p. 301; comp. also Epstein, l.c. pp. 91, 95 et seq.).

Judah collected the notes of travel of his fellow citizen Pethahiah, though incompletely and without any order (Zunz, in Asher's "Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela," ii. 253). His chief literary work was an ethical and mystical one. Undoubtedly genuine is his "Sefer ha-Kabod," which is mentioned by his pupils. Rather doubtful is the authorship of the ethical will , printed in 1583 and translated into Judæo-German, Prague, seventeenth to eighteenth century (comp. Moses Brück, "Rabbinische Ceremonialgebräuche in Ihrer Entstehung," pp. 68 et seq., Breslau, 1837; Abrahams, "Ethical Wills," in "J. Q. R." iii. 472). This testament contained regulations regarding the dead (§§ 1-15), the building of houses (§§ 16-21), matrimony (§§ 22-32), prohibited marriages between stepbrothers and step-sisters and between cousins, and various customs and superstitious prescriptions (§§ 33-end).

There are also ascribed to Judah. an astrological work, "Gemaṭriot" (Azulai, "Shem ha-Gedolim," ii., No. 27), handed down by his pupils and seen by Azulai, and "Sefer ha-Ḥokmah," on prayers and customs and the writing of scrolls of the Law.

Sefer Ḥasidim.

The principal work, however, with which Judah's name is connected is the "Sefer Ḥasidim" (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). The book contains ethical, ascetic, and mystical sentences, intermingled with elements of German popular belief. It deals (§§ 1-13) with piety (heading, "Shemuel"; so-called "Sefer ha-Yir'ah"); (§§ 14-26), reward and punishment, penitence, the hereafter, etc. (heading, "Sefer ha-Ḥasidim"; so-called "Sefer Teshubah"); (§§ 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.

The "Sefer Ḥasidim" 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 (see ed. Wistinetzki, p. 490, note; Epstein, l.c. p. 94). In its present form the book contains, according to Güdemann ("Erziehungswesen," Vienna, 1880, p. 281, note iv.), 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 (see Epstein, l.c. p. 93), 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 (as § 33, Isaac Alfasi's "Halakot"; § 36, Saadia Gaon's "Emunot we-De'ot"; § 431, Yerushalmi Berakot; §§ 30-32, R. Nissim's "Megillat Setarim"). 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, "Z. G." pp. 135-142 (comp. Zunz, "Literaturgesch." p. 299; Grätz, "Gesch." vi. 215). The "Book of the Pious" is an exceedingly rich source for the "Kulturgeschichte" of the Jews in the Middle Ages (see Berliner, "Aus dem Inneren Leben"; Abrahams, "Jewish Life in the Middle Ages"). Judah he-Ḥasid has often been confounded ("Ḳore ha-Dorot," "Shalshelet ha-Ḳabbalah," "Yuḥasin," "Shem ha-Gedolim") with Judah Sir Leon of Paris, who is also called "he-Ḥasid," which is nothing but an honorable title usual in his age. The fact that French words are to be found in the "Book of the Pious" and that it reflects French conditions caused Grätz also to attribute its authorship to Judah Sir Leon he-Ḥasid. But the reasons given by Grätz are not tenable.


The precise importance of Judah ben Samuel it is difficult to determine. Side by side with the official, dogmatic religion of the Church or the Synagogue there has always existed a mysticism dealing more largely and more intimately with the personal relation of the individual to God, which at times was in opposition to the religion of the Synagogue. Judah's mysticism was in such a stage of opposition; he therefore undervalued the study of the Halakah and indulged in marked departures from the accepted religious practises. He endeavored to deepen the feeling of devotion and piety and emphasized the importance of studying the Bible as against studying the Talmud. He deals mystically with prayer, regarding it as more important than study. It was really he who introduced theosophy among the Jews of Germany. The occasional quotations from his "Sefer ha-Kabod" present the salient points of his views. The conception of a personal relation to the Lord was long since felt by Jewish thinkers to be inconsistent with His spiritual nature. Judah and his school, therefore, though not the first ones, distinguished between the Divine Being ("'Eẓem") and the Divine Majesty ("Kabod"). The Divine Being, called also "Ḳedushshah," dwells in the west, invisible to men and angels. The Divine Being is superior to all human perception. When God reveals Himself to men and angels, He appears in the form of the Divine Majesty. The Divine Majesty, then, dwelling in the east and created out of divine fire, holds the divine throne, true to its nature of representing to human eyes the Divine Being. The throne is draped on the south, east, and north, while it is open to the west in order to allow the reflection of the Divine Being dwelling in the west to shine upon it. It is surrounded by the heavenly legions of angels, chanting to the glory of the Creator (Epstein, in "Ha-Ḥoḳer," ii. 37 et seq.).

Lacking the philosophic training common among the Spanish Jews—although he was acquainted with Ibn Ezra, Saadia, some of the Karaites, and perhaps Maimonides—Judah did not reduce his mystic-theosophical theories to a system, and they are therefore difficult to survey. His intellectual importance is on the whole not clear (comp. Güdemann, "Gesch." pp. 153 et seq., 167 et seq.; Jew. Encyc. iii. 465, s.v. Cabala). Zunz ("Z. G." p. 125) says of him: "To vindicate whatever is noble in human endeavors, and the highest aspirations of the Israelite, and to discover the inmost truths alluded to in the Sacred Books, seemed to be the ultimate purpose of a mind in which poetic, moral, and divine qualities were fused."

  • In addition to the works cited in the article, Fürst, Bibl. Jud. i. 169;
  • S. A. Wertheimer, Sefer Leshon Hasidim, two parts, Jerusalem, 1899;
  • Reifmann, in Oẓar Ṭob, 1885, pp. 26 et seq.
K. M. Sc.
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