Eleazar Azikri

Author of Yedid Nefesh and Sefer Haredim.

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Reprinted from The Jewish Religion: A Companion, published by Oxford University Press.

Eleazar Azikri was a Safed kabbalist (1533-1600). He was the author of Sefer Haredim (The Book of the Godfearers), in which the precepts are given an original classification corresponding to the various organs and limbs of the body with which they are carried out.

In his introduction to the book, Azikri draws up 17 necessary conditions for a precept to be performed in the ideal manner; among them that it should be carried out with proper intention to do God’s will; that it should not be half done or in a halfhearted manner but with joy in the service of God; that it should be carried out by the worshipper himself and not delegated to others; and that, wherever possible, it should be carried out in the company of other worshippers.

Azikri’s poem of mystical yearning, Yedid Nefesh, is very popular and has been incorporated into many prayer books.

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Rabbi Dr. Louis Jacobs (1920-2006) was a Masorti rabbi, the first leader of Masorti Judaism (also known as Conservative Judaism) in the United Kingdom, and a leading writer and thinker on Judaism.

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