Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (Ramban) –
Rabbi Moshe, son of Nachman was a critical link
in the transmission of ancient mystical wisdom to the modern
era. His contributions cover every area of scholarship, distinguished
both in the legal dimension and the esoteric one. His major
commentary on the Bible – mandatory study today –
is multi-dimensional, weaving the “wisdom of the truth”
(mysticism) into understanding the Bible. The Ramban, distinguished
also as a physician and philosopher, was a leader involved
in all public matters of his day. One of his greatest mystical
contributions was his ruling (in his Gate of Reward)
that the ultimate reward and fulfillment of creation is in
fusing the material and the spiritual.
~ 1194: Born in Gerona, Spain, to a noble family which
includes many prominent Talmudists.
~ His primary Kabbala teachers are Rabbi Yehuda ben Yakar
and Rabbi Ezra and Rabbi Ezriel of Gerona.
~ 1210: At age 16, having mastered the entire Talmud, he writes
Milchamot Hashem, a defense of the work of the great
Talmudist, Rabbi Isaac Alfasi against the attacks of Zerachiah
~ Becomes a practicing physician as well as fulfilling the
role of communal rabbi of Gerona.
~ Appointed chief rabbi of the entire province of Catalonia.
~ 1263: Is ordered by the king of Aragon to participate in
a religious disputation with Pablo Christiani, a Jewish apostate.
Ramban wins the debate, and publishes an account of the proceedings.
~ 1265: Brought to trial and condemned to banishment for “blasphemy.”
~ 1267: Leaves Spain and settles in Acco, Israel.
~ Begins a campaign to improve the spiritual and material
condition of the Jewish community in Israel which is in a
dismal state. Writes his famous commentary on the Torah.
~ 1270: Passes away at age 75, and is buried in Haifa.
~ His mystical writings are cited and deciphered in later
mystical works, especially composed by his student, the mystic
Rabbi Yitzchak Daman Ako.
Commentary on Chumash; Commentary on Maimonides’ Sefer
HaMitzvos; Commentary on Talmud; Writings of the
Ramban, 2 volumes (Chavel): Milchamot Hashem; Toras Hashem
Temimah (Treatise on the Virtue of Torah); Wedding Homily;
Rosh Hashana Homily; Treatise of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes); Sefer
HaGeulah; Commentary on the Book of Job; Letter on Ethics;
Toras HaAdam (includes Shaar HaGomul); Ha’Emunah
V’Habitachon (On Faith and Trust); Commentary on Sefer
Yetzirah. Torat Haacku; Sefer Havikuach; Iggeres
HaRamban on Intimacy; Discourse on the Inner Torah; Commentary
on Song of Songs; 613 Mitzvos derived from the Ten Commandments
Resources in English:
Ramban (Nachmanides): Commentary on the Torah - Five
Translated by: Charles B. Chavel, Shilo, 1976
Ramban: Writings and Discourses – Two volumes. Translated
by: Charles B. Chavel, Shilo
Ranban: His Life and Teachings – Feldheim, 1960
Ramban: The Story of Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, Yaakov Dovid
Iggeres HaRamban: A Letter for the Ages - The Ramban's Ethical
Translated by Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer (Artscroll Mesorah)
Ramban Hagaddah – by Rabbi Yosef Israel (Artscroll Mesorah)
Some Concurrent Events in History:
1000-1200: Period of the Middle Ages dominated by Crusades
- wars undertaken by European Christians to conquer Israel
from the Muslims and eliminate non-Christian control in Europe
and the Middle East.
1085: For the Jews, the Golden Age of Spain began to wane
with the Christian reconquest.
1200-30: In the Fourth Crusade, Christians conquer Constantinople
~ Famed Jewish scholar, Rambam, dies ~ Genghis Kahn invades
China, the Near East & Russia ~ In the Sixth Crusade,
Frederick II, King of the Holy Roman Empire is crowned King
of Jerusalem after Muslims surrender.
1230-49: Pope Gregory IX establishes the Inquisition, a tribunal
of the Roman Catholic Church to 'suppress heresy' ~ Public
burning of the Rambam's works in Paris ~ Egyptians recapture
Jerusalem ~ Hebrew Talmud and holy manuscripts publicly burnt
in Paris ~ Seventh Crusade led by Louis IX of France invades
Egypt ~ Muslims flee Seville as Christian armies invade.
1250-70: Crusades introduce the decimal system to Europe and
spices used for medicinal purposes ~ King Louis IX expels
Jews from France ~ Sorbonne (University of Paris) opened by
the chaplain of King Louis IX ~ Kublai Kahn establishes China's
Yuan Dynasty ~ Latin Empire of Constantinople falls to the
Over the centuries the Ramban’s view on the mitzvah
of settling the Land has been most influential. He also held
that even mitzvos which were obligatory outside of the Holy
Land did not achieve the level of perfection as when performed
within Eretz Yisrael. Looking back at the chaotic state of
the Land during the periods of non-Jewish control, he interpreted
Leviticus 26:32 as promising that Israel’s enemies will
be unable to settle the Land. As part of the mitzva of settling
the Land he included the admonition “that we not forsake
the Land to others of the nations” (Numbers 33:53).