Sepher HaChassidim [pietism]

AUCTION 21 | Thursday, December 04th, 2003 at 1:00
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Lot 122

Sepher HaChassidim [pietism]

FIRST EDITION. The Church censor struck in pen several lines found offensive to Christians. Contains a few Hebrew marginalia of a caustic nature, such as the following remark on p. 40b: ”A scholar who is unable to respond in any area that he is asked, is not fit to act as rosh yeshivah” (Sepher Chasidim)—”Today this is not the custom, but rather any teacher is ordained, a gold robe is thrown over him, and he is addressed as ‘moreinu ha-rav.’ “ On p. 9a and on the title there is the Hebrew signature of the owner(s) “Solomon and his four brothers Polisi.” A later note on the title page informs that at the division of the estate in 1766 the book fell to my lot, “Israel Polisi, son of Solomon of blessed memory.” Opposite the title there is the Italian inscription of one ”David Vittale.” ff. (27), (1), 121. Lightly browned and stained in places. Contemporary boards. 4to Vinograd, Bologna 10; Adams J-398

Bologna: Silk Weaver’s Guild 1538

Est: $2,000 - $3,000
The fifth of only nine books printed by the Jewish Silk Weaver’s Guild. Several of the printers at this press are known by name: Sepher HaChassidim was printed by Abraham b. Moses Cohen. See Amram, The Makers of Hebrew Books in Italy, pp. 232-35; Ephraim Deinard, Atikoth Yehudah, p. 2. Many of the passages in Sepher HaChassidim are homiletic and exegetic, explaining the philosophical or mystical meanings of Biblical verses and Talmudic sayings. Nonetheless, it is primarily a masterwork of ethical instruction, enjoining how to resist temptation and avoid sin; how to dress, speak, pray and work; how to choose a wife and select companions; how to harmonise the necessities of existence with the requirements of religious life; how to choose a righteous teacher, and many other subjects. No other Hebrew work of ethics devotes such close attention to detail, rendering it an important historical souce for the study of everyday Jewish life in medieval Germany. For an extensive treatment of Ashkenazic Pietism see I. Marcus, Piety and Society: The Jewish Pietists of Medieval Germany (1981). See also H. Soloveitchik, “Three Themes in Sefer Hasidim,” AJS Review I (1976) pp. 311-357. Most recently Prof. Haym Soloveitchik has contended (as did Reifmann, Güdemann, and Marcus) that the Bologna edition of Sepher Hasidim actually consists of two separate and radically dissimilar works. Soloveitchik refers to chaps. 1-152 as “S.H. I,” and chaps. 153-1178 as “Sefer Hasidim.” Soloveitchik argues for a French provenance for S.H. I (most of the glosses contained therein are French not German). Only the second work, “Sefer Hasidim,” is truly representative of the teachings of the German pietists (Hasidei Ashkenaz). H. Soloveitchik, “Piety, Pietism and German Pietism: Sefer Hasidim I and the Influence of Hasidei Ashkenaz,” JQR, XCII, Nos. 3-4 (2002), pp. 455-493