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New Approaches in the Study of Sefer Ḥasidim

Tue, December 18, 8:30 to 10:00am, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Federal 1 Complex

Session Submission Type: Panel Session


SEFER ḤASIDIM has long been recognized as a one-of-a-kind textual witness to a diversity of medieval phenomena: Jewish-Christian interaction and polemic; piety and mysticism; folk literary traditions; vernacular language, among many others. Most recently, in 2018, Ivan Marcus published “Sefer Hasidim" AND THE ASHKENAZIC BOOK IN MEDIEVAL EUROPE (Penn), which invites readers to reconsider whether SEFER ḤASIDIM was ever an identifiable, self-contained book in the medieval period. Further, in 2019, we await the publication of the third volume of Haym Soloveitchik’s collected essays in English, which will also included many celebrated contributions to our understanding of SEFER ḤASIDIM.

The purpose of this panel is to reflect on the ways SEFER ḤASIDIM has been studied over the last century and to chart new scholarly courses, especially as concerns SEFER ḤASIDIM’s medieval context and its post-medieval reception. Among the questions to consider are, what are the relationships between the diverse medieval (and early modern) manuscripts associated with SEFER ḤASIDIM? To what extent can we speak of Judah he-Ḥasid as SEFER ḤASIDIM’s author and authorship in general in the medieval context? How can SEFER ḤASIDIM be productively studied as a witness to Jewish-Christian interaction and debate beyond ubiquitous and over-simplified concepts of “influence?” What was the contribution of early modern printers to the early modern and modern reception of SEFER ḤASIDIM? How have modern Jewish movements integrated the ideas of SEFER ḤASIDIM into their theologies and ideologies?

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