THE LOVE AND THE FEAR OF GOD IN THE SEFER HAYASHAR
by G. Vajda
Translated from: L’Amour de Dieu dans la Theologie Juive du Moyen Age (1957), p. 181 ff.
It is towards the end of the thirteenth century that the Sefer Hayashar seems to have been written. It is an anonymous work, and it deals with theology, and, above all, with ethics.1See N. Brüll’s essay “Zur Geschichte der jüdisch-ethischen Literatur des Mittelalters” in Brüll’s Jahrbücher fur jüdische Geschichte und Literatur, V and VI, pp. 71-93.
The unknown author reveals a thorough knowledge of Rabbinical and Jewish philosophical literature, although he does not often quote literally from the latter source.
The problem about which he wishes to instruct his readers particularly is that of Avodah: how can we serve God properly? The answer can be given in one word: through Emunah, faith. But in the Sefer Hayashar faith is a many-faceted idea which derives from many virtues that influence each other and are in turn directed by faith. One might roughly state that faith is based on reason (or intelligence, sekhel in Hebrew), and the latter is composed of love, fear and wisdom.2צואות הר׳ יהודה בן הרא״ש ואחיו הר׳ יעקב בעל הטורים ed. Schechter, p. 11: וגם תרגילו עצמיכם ללמוד בספר חובות הלבבות ובספר הישר ובאגרת תשובה לר׳ יונה ז״ל וביוצא בהם.
Now each of these three ideas calls for a detailed analysis, which is amply furnished in the book. The definitions may be found in the fifth chapter,3צרור המור (ed. Venice 1567) commenting on the weekly portion נצבים fol. 153. col. 3. והנה תנאי התשובה הם רבים והמחברים דברו בהם, ואינני רוצה להאריך בהם, וםכלם לא ישרו בעיני אלא דברי םפר הישר שמתחיל אנא ד׳ הושיעה נא ואומרים שעשאו ר״ת ז״ל ,ואיני זוכר דבריו על נכון שבעונותי אין לי םפר שכולם נשארו בפורטגאל, אבל כמדומה לי שהיה אומר שד׳ תנאי התשובה הם כנגד ד יסודות וגו׳. which bears this title: “Of the five pillars of worship: Reason, love, fear, wisdom and faith.”
Reason, “the fruit of the mind”, must be carefully considered. Whenever reason is put to proper use, “man is called perfect.” Then he serves, loves and fears God, for these three attitudes—service, love and fear—derive from reason just as many rivers come from one source. On the other hand, any love, fear and wisdom which is not based on reason has neither roots nor foundation.
Whereas an intelligent person can easily draw the line between these three faculties, the fool cannot.4This can be found, although with many changes, in the tenth chapter of the Sepher Hayashar. In the introductory formula אנא ד׳ הושיעה נא which are not to be found in our text, Brull (Ib.p.80, n.11) sees a mere formula added by a copyist. In two more places he mourns over the loss of his library (fol.23b, and fol. 33b. See Zunz, Zur Geschichte u. Literatur, p.232, Berlin, 1845).
Now, we must explain each one of these. We will begin with love. The matter of love is a uniting quality between the lover and the beloved. Know that love can be divided into three parts. One type of love seeks a benefit, the second type of love is the love one has for society and friends, and the third is love of the good qualities which are to be found in the beloved; this third type of love is the firm and the true one. Moreover, it has the power within it of never altering or changing, because this love is sustained and bound by the qualities of the beloved, and it is impossible for it to change unless the qualities of the beloved change. But it is not our intention to call to mind the qualities which change, but rather the qualities which endure, and these are the qualities of the Creator, blessed be He. For when a man loves another man because of his intellect, his wisdom, his ethics, his humility and the other good qualities, such love is firm and will never change, because the cause which brings about this love does not change. Therefore, I say that this is the true and perfect love, when a man loves his God because of His power, because He is the Creator of all things and because He is compassionate, merciful and patient, and possesses all the other good qualities. Such a love will never depart or be removed, for the qualities of the Creator, may He be extolled, will never depart or be altered. Of the three types of love which we have called to mind, none will endure save this one, which is the true pillar of love. The other two will not endure, for they have not within themselves the essential quality of every lover and beloved.”
“Know that love is joined of two parts, the qualities of the lover, and the qualities of the beloved. According to the qualities of the lover will be the strength of his love for the good qualities which exist in the one he loves. Now, I will explain the qualities of the lover and say that these are the good intellect, and a pure and refined soul, and when these qualities exist in the lover even to a small degree, he will be drawn to love everyone who possesses these qualities because every kind gravitates to his kind and keeps aloof from his opposite. Therefore, a man possessing a good intellect and a pure soul is drawn to the love of God, for within the Creator are these just and good qualities, all-embracing and true. Therefore, when a man is drawn to His worship, it is a sign that he, himself, has qualities of the Creator, blessed be He. (And) when you see a man separating himself from serving God, may He be extolled, know that there are not within him any of the qualities of God, but their opposites… .”
The love of God derives, therefore, from a pure soul and reason, and that love in turn comes from fear.
“Whenever a man loves another man because of good qualities that are within him this love becomes a yoke upon his neck and compels him to seek and fulfill the will of the beloved. He will find no rest unless he exerts himself in matters pertaining to the beloved and in such cases, the exertion will be sweeter to his palate more than rest. When the lover does for the beloved a thing which finds favor in the latter’s eyes, then the soul of the lover becomes more precious in his own eyes, because he is able to find favor in the eyes of his beloved by doing a thing which is good in the eyes of his beloved. If the lover should chance to do a deliberate or an unpremeditated sinful act, or anything which does not please his beloved, then the lover will be confounded and ashamed and he will steal away, as an entire people will steal away when they are ashamed. This pertains to the power of love which is like an iron yoke upon him, to cause the love to yield to the beloved as Scripture says, (Song of Songs 8:6), ‘For love is as strong as death.’ ”
As the author mentions repeatedly, the moving power of such love is the affinity between the outstanding virtues of the beloved and the modest ones of the lover. The lover offers himself totally to the beloved since the former recognizes the superiority of the latter, just as a student recognizes the superiority of his teacher or a slave that of his master. This feeling of inferiority generates fear.
Furthermore, the lover always hopes to learn from the virtues of the beloved, as the student learns from the knowledge and the instruction of his teacher.8ראשית חכמה (Venice 1593) שער היראה ch. 12, p. 48b ,עוד דברים דומים לזה כתב רבינו תם בספר הישר ib. שער האהבה ch. 10 p. 124a, ib. p. 129b, p. 164a, p. 187b, p. 228a — p. 311b
It would be useless to object that we should not compare the love or the friendship between two creatures with the love of God, since no yardstick can be applied to both God and man, no matter how perfect a man might be.9The essays collected in the anthology שתי ידות (Venice 1615) are from the period between 1570 and 1610. In the דרך החיים essay L. notes that 1500 years have elapsed since the destruction of the Temple (p. 115b: ,ואם בעל נפש הוא ידאג על חורבן המקדש וביזוי התורה וצרות ישראל ושבים וצערם וחלול שם הגדול המחולל בגוים זח אלף ות״ק שנים ib. p. 126b. זכור שם אל מחולל בעממים ודתו מאכולת אש ואורים, והם יחצו שונים והם קוראי מקרא ואותו מאמירים, וזה שנים חמש מאות ואלף ועוד יותר ואל שותק לפרים. In the ethical poem טובה תוכחת the time since the destruction of the Temple is given as 1540 years (p. 134a. וזה שנים חמש מאות ואלף וארבעים אשר חרב דביר But even though the objects are incommensurable, the feeling (“the force”, in the author’s terminology) of love is identical in both cases.
“Therefore, the Creator, blessed be He, seeks nothing of a man but that he love Him with all his power, and this will be as important in His eyes as though he loved Him according to the love that is due to Him.”
But love and fear alone are not enough. They must be joined by wisdom.10Yechiel Heilprin, in the Seder Hadoroth שמות םפרים s.v. attributed the work to the Tossafist R. Jacob of Orleans. וםפר הישר לרבינו תם הוא רב יעקב מאורליינוש בעל התוםפות מענייני התשובה ויראה ופרישות ש״ה. This may merely be a vague assumption, made in order to maintain the tradition that a Tossafist R. Jacob was the author ” For if the lover is without wisdom, he will not recognize the qualities which we have mentioned, nor will he recognize in his beloved his intellect, his wisdom and the other precious qualities. If he does not know his qualities, he will not know how to love him, for the power of folly which obscures the knowledge of the precious qualities of the beloved will nullify the love of the lover, just as we have said. For the love of a fool is not love.”11שתי ידות p. 122a: וספר הישר המכונה לר״ת, ואיננו אמת ,שר״ת חבר םפר וקראו םפר הישר, אך הוא חבור תלמודי ואינו נמצא, ואני שמעתי שםפר הישר הזה שנדפם בקושטנדינא פעם אחד ובויניציא .פעם אחד חברו הר׳ זרחיה חיוני, ואיך שתהיה הוא חבור נחמד מאד. Lonsano quotes frequently from our work See p. 90b, 92b, 94a, 97b, 98b, 121b, 127b, 128b, 129b
The more wisdom the lover possesses, the more will his love be intense and genuine. Certainly, if the beloved has no outstanding virtues, a minimum of wisdom will suffice to recognize them. But in that case we are not dealing with perfect love, and only in such a love are we interested here.
“Since we have established that these three, love, fear and wisdom are interdependent, that each is incomplete without the others, and that all are founded upon the worship of the Creator in perfect faith without flattery, we must therefore state that faith is the foundation of the worship of the Creator, blessed be He, even though worship and faith flow from the three principles mentioned above.”
These words are of the utmost importance; for they show that, while our author shares with his medieval colleagues that division which is so dear to them, he has a very clear idea of the unity of spiritual life, and of the interdependence of all of its essential parts.
What follows immediately also shows how much he is interested in unity.
“Now, I will reveal to you a great secret in the worship of God, may He be extolled, and I say that it has three steps… . Now, the lowest step is study, understanding, the experiences of the world, and length of days. These are four pillars by which a man can acquire reason, and this is the lowest step. And from this lowly step, man can ascend to the step of love, fear and wisdom, which are three pillars. This is similar to the case of a tree. The farther the branches are from the tree the more abundantly they grow, and the closer they are to the trunk the more sparsely they grow. So it is with all created things. The farther they are from the Creator, blessed be He, the more their species and their varieties increase, while the closer they are, the more the number diminishes until it reaches one. The pillars of the lowest step then are four.
We now come to the second step, which has three pillars upon it (these are the three: love, fear and wisdom.) If a man conducts himself properly with these, he will ascend from them to the third step, which are faith and worship of God, and these are the two pillars. From these two, a man will ascend until he cleaves to the highest virtue,12See Azulay, Shem Hagedolim which is one, and that is the yearning to attain the will of God, may He be extolled, and to cleave to Him. Pay close attention and see how a man begins to ascend by many steps to fewer steps until he reaches the one and there he stands, for beyond the one, which is the acme of intelligence, there is nothing else.
After having reached the goal, which is the attention of the worshipper who loves, we may ask: Now what benefit comes from all of this? And we answer that the all-embracing benefit which comes from the service of the Creator, blessed be He, and His love, is that the Creator should love the man that worships him as it is said (Isaiah 43:4), “Since thou art precious in My sight, and honorable, and I have loved thee.” And it is written (Deuteronomy 7:13), “And He will love thee, and bless thee, and multiply thee.”
God’s love of man satisfies all human desires. Once this has been granted, one does not even have to ask any longer whether the soul of the beloved survives his death—love implies reward, no matter what it is.13Sepher Hayashar (ed. Amsterdam 1708), XIII, p. On
To the random ideas we have just analyzed, we must add several other passages which spell them out more precisely.
Chapter 214Preface כי ראיתי םפרים רבים ונכבדים בענין עבודת האל בגון םפר חובת הלבבות לחםיד רבי בחיי בן בקודה ז״ל וםפרים אחרים רבים ונכבדים. ibid: וע״ב הוצרכו לחיות להם םפר הנותן אמרי שפר כגון םפר חובת הלבבות וזולתי כולל עבודת האל ית׳ והיה להם למשיב נפש ולמורה צדק יזבידם אם ישכחו ויזהירם אם ישגו וילמדם מה שקיצרו ויורם ימה שלא ידעו ובו׳. … Among other works, only the fables Kalila Va-damna are mentioned, ib. XIII, ואל יהיה דומה לגבר במשלי כלילה ודמנה כי החתול כשהזקין וקצר ידו לטרוף טרף ונעשה נזיר ובטחו בו החיות היראות ממנו, עד אשר נלכדו ברשתו וגרם עצמותם. Two anonymous quotations are from the poems of Judah Halevi (1086-1145). The first one has been mutilated in all editions and is hardly recognizable. In the Amsterdam edition it reads (XIII) : כאשר אמר המשורר: נחנו בעולם הזה כדובים אשר חשבו חושב והם יםעו Here is the proper text of the poem titled לא העננים, as found by Dukes (Ginze Oxford, p. 19f. Brody, Diwan des Abul-l-Hassan Judah Halevi 1. 68, p. 95 …) נחנו בעולם הזה ככוכבים אשר חשבו נוחים, והם יםעו ומה טוב אמר האומר. עבדי זמן עבדי עבדים הם עבד ד׳ הוא לבד חפשי. The second quotation (XIII): which is quoted by Jacob Gawison in the name of Judah Halevi, can be found in a poem published by Luzzatto (Diwan, ed, Lyck, p. 18a) (see Dukes נחל קדומים p. 52, Geiger, Diwan S. Abdul-Hasan, p. 152, Brull, ib., p. 81, n.6) Poems and statements by sages are quoted in other instances too (Introduction 11, VII, XIII, and there a quotation from Kalila Va-damna, and also Die Erzahlung von einem Bussfertigen XIII, p. 36b) gives details about love and fear, and tries to determine their relations to each other.
In that connection we hear of three “pillars” of the worship of God.15The Averroistic teaching mentioned above (V, V, VII) was so well known at that time that it could also have been taken from Hebrew sources. The first one is a pure and good heart. As a matter of fact, if a man is liked by his fellow-man, he is also liked by God, as we find in the case of Samuel (1 Sam. 2:26.) The second pillar is the belief that everything except God is imperfect. The third pillar is the belief in God’s perfection. If these three attitudes16Steinschneider, Hebraische Uebersetzungen des Mittelalters, p. 373ff. exist in a man, his soul is naturally attracted to God, and if he loves Him, the service he gives Him is absolutely perfect. Indeed, love leads to fear, for whatever man loves he fears, whereas the opposite is not always true. God praises him not because of his fear but because of his love, as it says: “the descendants of Abraham who loved Me”, not “who feared Me.”17See above. Isaac Aboab, who used our essay in his Menorat Hamaor (Brüll ib. p. 8 n.5) is later than Judah ben Asher (Brull, p. 82)
Fear without love is for the wicked and the Gentiles, not for the righteous ones, to whom “Thou shalt love the Lord” (Deut. 6:5) is addressed.18Brull ib. p. 81 n.7
Man’s love of God is characterized by these aspects:
1) To love the divine law.
2) To love divine worship more than anything else.
3) To despise those who despise God, and to love those who love Him.
4) The love of mundane goods must be nothing in comparison with the worship of God.
5) All pain, privations and sufferings are sweet if put to the service of God.
6) No personal matters are more important than divine ones.
7) To proclaim the love of God and to be proud of it.
8) Not to listen to the arguments of those who wish to turn one away from the service of God.
9) No occurrence—be it a happy or an unfortunate one—makes the lover forsake the service of God.
10) That service does not seek any reward, since in that case it would depend on something else (other than God.)
“Where these ten qualities exist in a person, he is called a lover of God, and he has reached the very summit of piety.”
Abraham was adorned with all of these virtues, as prescribed in the book of Deuteronomy.
The genuine love of God is not without an echo. “As man loves God, so does He love him. A sage was asked: ‘If a man serves God with all his heart and all his might, when does God want to see him?’ He replied: ‘When that man rejects the world and its vanities, when he detests life and desires death, then God wants to see him.’ In other words: when man loves God truly, God loves him in turn.”19See below
Following this insight into the love of God, the author approached the problem of fear. Unfortunately this page is quite unclear (confused) and its lack of clarity does not stem solely from the alterations which were probably introduced in the course of the transmission of the text. Here is at least the doctrine which seems to emerge from it.
When love and fear are based on some kind of an expectation,20Maimonides wrote about “The Healing of the Human Soul”, and how sicknesses in the area of morals ought to be treated according to the rules of general medicine (Introduction to his commentary to the Ethics of the Fathers, ch. 4. See Rosin: Die Ethik des Maimonides, p. 83) and the following excerpt from our work (VII), recalls that teaching: “When the body becomes sick we apply a method which combats that sickness, and the more the sickness tends towards one side of the center, the stronger must the medicine be towards the opposite side. If, for instance, the body is too hot, we must cool it, for the heat must be turned towards the proper measure by applying cold means. The same holds true of the soul, for instance if someone loves money too much. Then he must learn to be more generous, etc.” they cannot be permanent, since they must disappear as soon as the expectation has been fulfilled or frustrated. It was merely an accidental cause whose effect could not be a permanent one. We must abide by the ten criteria we have just spelled out. They are absent from the worship of God which is inspired by fear, and if they are there, it is so only as far as fear emerges from love. It is true that the love of God inspires fear in the lover, but fear must not have the upper hand, for then it would weaken love and the virtues which characterize it. A proper balance must therefore be maintained between love and fear, and in regard to this men are judged. The Bible and tradition refer to most saintly people as “those who fear God.” Fear however is sometimes meant as a very intensive love. Such fear endures since it comes from proper love.
There is a lack of clarity because of the disparity of the facts on which this chapter is based. The author wants absolutely to maintain the primacy of disinterested love as against fear. Yet he is troubled by the fact that the Bible does underline the importance of fear, since even such a model of love as Abraham is called “fearing God”, and that at the very time when he is about to offer the supreme sacrifice of love. We must also ask ourselves why our author, like other Jewish theologians, does not simply refer to the idea of reverential fear. At any rate, his analyses do not succeed in clarifying entirely the relationship of love and fear.
Love and fear, which implicate each other, although the latter is subordinated to the former and has a rather secondary character compared with it, are joined by the third pillar, which is knowledge (wisdom).
“When knowledge combines with love, the subject can obtain whatever he desires and grasp everything that can be known.”21II, (end of chapter): החלק השני עבודת חםרי לב לפי קוצר דעתם אשר לא יכירו הבורא ית׳ כי אם במבחן הפלאות כפתאים והםכלים ואין יתרון להם משאר האוילים בדעת הבורא ית׳. Already in the first edition (Venice 1544) there is a gap; the editor of the Amsterdam edition has corrected it in parenthesis Without knowledge perfect love is impossible, for even if an ignorant man can love his Creator, he does not know how to do His will. Ignorant of the ways of the Lord, he forbids what is permitted, and vice versa22Introduction והזהרנו חקיו ומשפטיו הנתמדיס על פי שני עדים, ע״פ השכל ראשונה וע״פ הנביאים אחרונח. ; thus he sins without being aware of it. His love is like a branch without a root, like a building without foundation. But when a loving man acquires knowledge, he knows the details of worship, what to add and what to leave out. He knows the secret of worship, its modes and paths. The same holds true of many other areas. Without knowledge man does not do the right thing, for new situations arise which had been unknown to him at the time of his studies. But an intelligent person is not troubled by this, for once he has mastered the principles he can figure out the consequences so well that he can grasp the new facts which puzzle an unintelligent man. Thus we realize that, in order to be perfect, worship must be founded on these three virtues, and that love and knowledge cannot combine as long as fear is not integrated with them.23I וזה שהקדמתי ראיות השכל על ראיות הכתוב, מפני שהלב יקבל אותם מהרה יותר מראיות הכתוב ויתיישבו כנפש השומע בעבור האותות והמופתים הבאים עליהם.
Faith, the subject of chapter 3,24IV והרביעי לרחק מהסתבל בחכמות החיצונות, לבד טח שידע ויאמין כי תתחזק בו אמונתו, וצריך שילמוד ממנו כמשפט ואל יעמיק בו, כי אם יעמיק, האמונה מנגד עיניו ירחיק, ובחשבו בי ידו באמת תחזיק, ימצא הבל וריק. comes from the three virtues which we have dealt with. Yet this is not done in a direct way but through an intermediary step, namely reason, which is the synthesis of love, wisdom and fear. In case of need, faith can be merely the basis of love and fear, but then it would be imperfect. On the other hand, it is possible that the evil contained in certain wisdom will destroy him who is lacking in faith, for example, the wisdom of ‘atheists’,25VI אך כונת הפילםופיא ותבונתה היא לדעת ייחוד השם וכשידענו אז יעבדנו. heretics and philosophers, who do not believe in the Holy Torah, and this is because of the evil contained in their wisdom. Then when there are joined to this wicked wisdom an evil heart and unworthy qualities, the faith will be utterly destroyed. For the quality of love will be lacking in this combination,26VI not only because of the evil heart, but because of the study of evil wisdoms, and new and evil matters will enter the heart.27XIII ואם כי אין כונתו כי אם לטוב לדעת ייחוד הבורא מדרך המופת, אין לו די בקבלה ובדברי רבותינו ז״ל והוא כמו שלא יספיק בחלקו וירצה לבקש גדולות ונפלאות ממנו. These will destroy the source of love, and then the very spring of love will be a corrupt and muddy fountain. When the lack of love is combined with evil wisdom, all faith is lost. Therefore, I must say that the true service of God comes from the power of faith, and faith, in turn, comes from the power of these three qualities, and these are wisdom, love and fear. To these there are added many powers, for example, insistence upon the unity of God, trust in God, humility and moral conduct.28VII אחרי אשר הנפש יש כה אלה חכחות, נאמר כי אם תגבר בה כה היודעת דרכי האל יתברך ועניניז…זאת הנפש לא תמות כלל, אך אם תחלש זאת הכה, תהיה בה אולת, ובידוע כי זאת הנפש תמות, כאשר תמות נפש הבהמה, ועל כן לא נאמר, בי נפש החכם כשיהיה רשע היא נקראת נפש יודעת, כי אין כונתינו לחכמות הזרות כי אם אל החכמות ישרות, אשר ילמוד אדם מהם דרכי אל, לזה יקרא חכם, וזאת תחיה ולא תמות נפשו כלל. But we have not come to explain these other qualities at this time, but to explain rather the three that are the principal ones and these three come from the power of reason, as we have previously said. Therefore, we come now to explain briefly the matter of reason, and afterwards we will explain all the matter pertaining to love, fear and wisdom.29II עתה אחרי התבאר, כי עמודי תאהבה שלשה ופירשגז כל אחד בדרך קצרה, נאמר כי יםוד הםפר וכוגתו הוא עבודה, אשר בה ישיג האדם רצון האל. From all of these there will emerge the mystery of faith.”
But that section30II is somewhat disappointing. For, as is stated repeatedly, reason consists of love, fear and wisdom and is not really a virtue of its own. It rather has the function of a balance, trying to establish the golden mean (mishor) so that none of the three virtues goes to any extreme.
In short, we find here again an idea which was so dear to Saadia and Bahya, namely, that of moderation, which, according to the spirit of the Torah, is a basic principle of spiritual life. We also find the idea of Maimonides, which has been accepted by Jewish theological thinking at large, that without the proper knowledge of an object, love and fear cannot really exist.
The doctrine of the Sefer Hayashar is thus characterized by the primacy of the love of God as against fear, which may be called a by-product of love, although it completes it in a manner which is not too well defined. Love can neither be genuine nor work properly without knowledge: the practical yet rational knowledge of the Law of the Beloved, and a theoretical knowledge or rather the recognition of God’s infinite perfections. Yet we must not speak of “intellectual love” in the sense of Maimonides, Gersonides and many others, since philosophy is considered right away as being dangerous and leading to faulty knowledge, and therefore is inimical to faith. Faith again is not clearly defined, it is a general attitude which encompasses all of the believer’s virtues and subjects them to the service of God. This can only mean that man’s very purpose is to serve God with all the moral intellectual resources of a mind whose faculties tend towards unity. This is the conclusion of the spiritual progression whose goal is the union with a God Who responds to man’s love by granting him gifts which make all questions concerning the destiny of the blessed soul useless.
This teaching borders on mysticism. It does not wish to have anything to do with philosophy, and if it has any connection with the Kabbalah, it is so vaguely suggested that it is hardly discernible at all.