The Warnings of Rav Yehuda Hachassid

Warnings of Rav Yehuda Hachassid:[1]

Sefer Chassidim in general, and the Tzavah of Rebbe Yehuda Hachassid in particular, is a most valuable collection of superstitious related restrictions and practices that are not based on the Talmud or classic Jewish law, but rather on the world of spiritual medicine. Just as there exists a field of natural science and medicine relating to the health of the body [from which many restrictions can be learned from despite them not being recorded in the Talmud or Poskim], so too, there exists a field of supernatural, spiritual and mystical, science and medicine which relates to the health of the body and soul. Rebbe Yehuda Hachassid was a master of this field of supernatural science and medicine and those matters which supernaturally can affect the physical and spiritual health of the person. He recorded these supernatural health related directives in his Tzavah or will, and his Magnum Opus, Sefer Chassidim.

Historical background: Many of the dangers that are known and kept in Jewish tradition are sourced in the writings of Rav Yehuda Hachassid. Rav Yehuda Hachassid was a 12th-century Ashkenazi Rishon, who lived in Germany. He was considered one of the greatest Halachic authorities of his time, and was renowned as a Kabbalist and master of wonders. He lived in the times of the Baalei Hatosafos and was a student of the famed Riy Hazakein.[2] Some of the most illustrious Rishonei Ashkenaz were his pupils, such as the Or Zarua, and the Rokeiach, and Semag. The Maharam Merothenberg, who was the spiritual father of many of the greatest Rishonei Ashkenaz [i.e. Rosh, Mordechai, Hagahos Maimanis] was a student of his student, the Or Zarua. Rav Yehuda Hachassid wrote a number of Titles, his most famous being Sefer Chassidim, and Tzavas Rav Yehuda Hachassid. The Tzavah is seemingly an excerpt from his book “Sefer Hakavod” which never made the print, and is now printed together with the Sefer Chassidim. The Tzavah, or otherwise known as the testament or will, is a collection of dozens of warnings and hazards which for the most part have no source in the Talmud or any prior Jewish literature, and were seemingly innovated by Rav Yehuda Hachassid himself, through Ruach Hakodesh. The Alter Rebbe once stated regarding one of his warnings that it would take an entire book the size of the Sefer Hashlah to explain it.[3]

Must one abide by the warnings of Rav Yehuda Hachassid? Some of the warnings of Rav Yehuda Hachassid are recorded in other Rishonim, and written as final rulings in the Shulchan Aruch, and certainly these must be abided by.[4] Now, regarding his other warnings: Some Poskim[5] rule that the warnings of Rav Yehuda Hachassid are not binding on the Jewish people especially if they go against the Talmud, and especially being that seemingly many of the warnings were mistakenly written in his name and never really said by him. Other Poskim[6] rule that many of his warnings never became accepted by the Jewish community, and others have been abolished. Other Poskim[7] rule that on this we apply the rule of Kol DeKapid Kapid Bahadaiyhu, Udelo Kapid, Lo Kapdi Bahdei, which means that each person can choose to suspect for it or ignore. Other Poskim[8] rule that many of the warnings of Rabbi Yehuda Hachassid were intended only for his descendants and not for anyone else. However, we find that even his own descendants do not necessarily abide by his warnings[9], and some Poskim[10] explain that the warnings were only meant for his children and not for future generations. However, other Poskim[11] hold that the warnings were meant for all of his descendants, and therefore everyone today must be careful to abide by them as perhaps he is one of his descendants. Practically, the majority of Poskim[12] negate the notion that the warnings were not written by Rav Yehuda Hachassid, and likewise negate the idea that they were only meant for his descendants. Hence, we only apply leniency towards the warnings of Rav Yehuda Hachassid if explicitly stated in the Poskim regarding a specific warning that it was never accepted by the Jewish people.[13]

Cases of leniency: One is only required to be stringent in the warnings of Rav Yehuda Hachassid regarding its literal and simple interpretation, and not in any related matter.[14] Some Poskim[15] rule that one may be lenient in the warnings of Rav Yehuda Hachassid if he receives a Heter from three Rabbanim. Some Poskim[16] rule that one may be lenient for the sake of the mitzvah, although other Poskim[17] are stringent even in the case of a mitzvah.

The approach of the Chabad Rabbeim: The Alter Rebbe was very careful with the warnings of Rav Yehuda Hachassid.[18] However, the Tzemach Tzedek was not stringent in keeping all of the warnings of Rav Yehuda Hachassid, and he had a son and daughter marry two siblings against the warnings of Rav Yehuda Hachassid, relying on the ruling that many of the warnings were only meant for his descendants.[19] However, some say that the Tzemach Tzedek was later punished for doing so and he therefore retracted his lenient ruling and was stringent.[20] The Rebbe Maharash[21] was careful to abide by the warnings of Rebbe Yehuda Hachassid, as was the Rebbe Rashab[22], and the Rebbe.[23] However, in certain cases the Rebbe Rashab and Rebbe were lenient.[24]


[1] See Sefer Shemiras Haguf Vihanefesh [Lerner] Mavo 15

[2] See Tosafus Bava Metziah 5b.

[3] Shivim Temarim 44

[4] See Admur 260:1 regarding cutting hair on Rosh Chodesh; Michaber 362:6 regarding not burying two corpses together; Michaber 363:2; Rama Y.D. 11:4 regarding Shechita in Teves; Rama 179:3 regarding a chicken who crowed like a rooster; Rama 265:11 regarding not being Sandek twice

[5] Rebbe Moshe Proventzal 9; Chasam Sofer Y.D. 138; See also Terumas Hadeshen 211

[6] Maharam Mintz 79

[7] Chasam Sofer E.H. 116; Devar Moshe Kama 58; Avnei Tzedek E.H. 10; Igros Moshe E.H. 1:4; Igros Kodesh 14:399

[8] See Shev Yaakov 23; Noda Beyehuda Tinyana E.H. 79, brought in Igros Kodesh Rebbe Maharash p. 45; Shut Ramatz Y.D. 87; Yad Yitzchak 3:109; Shemiras Hanefesh 85; Shemira Meialya 53; Kaf Hachaim 116:130; Chasam Sofer in Igeres Sofrim 2:25

[9] Shem Aryeh Y.D. 27 that the Maharsha was a descendent of his and nonetheless his name was Shmuel and his father’s name was Judah, contrary to the warning of Rav Yehuda Hachassid

[10] Shem Aryeh Y.D. 27; Beis Shearim Y.D. 196

[11] Damesek Eliezer on Tzavah 5

[12] See Divrei Chaim 1 E.H. 8 who vehemently negates the ruling of the Noda Beyehuda and says that “Shaareiy Leih Mareiy” to the Noda Beyehuda; Shivim Temarim Kuntrus Shiva Eiynayim Ayin 2; Shem Aryeh Y.D. 27; Chaim Veshalom 2:13; Rabbeinu Yerucham in Nesiv 28; Rokeiach 316; Tashbeitz 555; Orchos Chaim 2 Hilchos Avel 31; Maharil 111; Terumas Hadeshen 131; Beis Yosef 179; Kneses Hagedola E.H. 62:4; Yosef Ometz 37; Zohar Chaiy Mishpatim p. 133; Shulchan Hatahor 260:4; Yifei Laleiv 3 Y.D. 240; Nishmas Kol Chaiy Y.D. 42; Chaim Bayad 24; Keser Torah Eitz Chaim 9; Mili Dechassidusa Tzavah 50; Igros Kodesh 11:296

[13] Divrei Chaim ibid

[14] See Igros Kodesh Rebbe Maharash p. 47; Imrei Eish Y.D. 60; Avnei Tzedek E.H. 11; Betzel Hachochmah 3:42

[15] Avnei Tzedek Y.D. 46 and 142; E.H. 10-11; Levushei Mordechai 4:25; Yad Yitzchak 3:109; Maharsham 6:145; Hagahos Maharsham on Tzavah 19; Kinyan Torah 1:39

[16] Noda Beyehuda Tinyana E.H. 79; So rule regarding destroying an oven for the sake of a Yeshiva: Beis Dovid Y.D. 56; Shem Aryeh; Ben Porat 2:11; Maharam Brisk 1:29; Shivim Temarim on Tzavah Ayin Hei, mentioned in Igros Kodesh 4:55; Sefer Shemiras Haguf Vihanefesh [Lerner] 220:10; See Toras Shalom of Rashab 36 who mentions the stringent opinion and brings argument to be lenient

[17] Yosef Ometz 37:1 in name of Tzeror Hakesef 6; Ikarei Hadat Y.D. 14:2; Zechor Leavraham 3:189; Shulchan Gavoa 116:119; Zechor Leavraham; Nishmas Kol Chaiy 42; Hagahos Maharsham on Tzavah; Kaf Hachaim 116:121

[18] Tzemach Tzedek E.H. 143 and Piskeiy Dinim Y.D. 116 that the Alter Rebbe was very stringent with this Tzavah

[19] Piskeiy Dinim Y.D. 116

[20] Shivim Temarim ibid writes that the Tzemach Tzedek was punished for being lenient in this

[21] Igros Kodesh Rebbe Maharash p. 45 regarding building a private Mikveh at home

[22] Toras Shalom of Rashab 36-38 regarding destroying an oven; Igros Kodesh Rebbe Rashab 1:159 and 174 [printed in Shut Toras Shalom Halacha 36-37] regarding closing up windows

[23] Igros Kodesh 12:444 regarding being Sandek twice; Igros Kodesh 18:136; Igros Kodesh 13:296; 15:346 [printed in Shulchan Menachem 4:27-29]; See Shulchan Menachem 4:14 in length for many letters of the Rebbe on the subject

[24] Igros Kodesh Rashab 2:923 and Igros Kodesh 3:182; 195; 6:190 regarding brother marrying two sisters; See Shulchan Menachem 4:14 for other cases of leniency

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