Sefer Hasidim, § 815, p. 206


The yearning for children and wives, the jesting with friends, excursions, and the innovation of useless things cause one to neglect the words of Torah. Thus, [it is written] “with all your heart and all your soul” (Deut. 6-4) with respect to the love and worship [of God], so that one might abandon them on behalf of the blessed holy One. He should worship and love the blessed holy One, “in all your ways know him” (Prov. 3-6), “to love the Lord” (Deut. 11-13), for the soul is filled with love, and it is bound in joy, and that joy drives away from his heart the pleasures of the body and the delight of the world. That joy is so strong and augmented in his heart that even if a young man who has not had intercourse with his wife for many days, and he has a great desire, and when he ejaculates his semen like an arrow he has pleasure, this is nothing in comparison to the strength and the vigor of the joy of the love of the Lord. All the love of the joyance of the heart of the one who loves the Lord with all his heart and all of his thoughts are on how to execute the will of the Creator, to exonerate the masses, to fulfill the sanctification of the Lord, and to offer himself in the love of the Creator … and the love should be like Phinehas who offered himself for the sake of the Creator, and Abraham our father who feared the Lord, as it says, “I swear to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, I will not take so much as a thread or a sandal strap” (Gen. 14-22-23), and Elisha who did not want to take from Naaman. That love prevents a person from abrogating the words of Torah on account of joking and toying around with his children, or on account of the love of seeing women and [engaging in idle] speech, and it also enables him to abandon excursions, and it causes him to sing sweet songs in order to fill his heart in the joy of the love of the Lord, and he toils and labors in the path that is the will of the Creator.

Translated by Elliot Wolfson, “Martyrdom, Eroticism and Asceticism in Twelfth Century Ashkenazi Piety,” in Jews and Christians in Twelfth Century Europe, 171-220. Edited by J. van Engen and M. Signer, Notre Dame- University of Notre Dame Press, 2001.

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