Nachmanides - Encyclopedia




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NACHMANIDES (NAIiMANIDES), the usual name of Moses Ben Nahman (known also as Ramban), Jewish scholar, was born in Gerona in 1194 and died in Palestine c. 1270. His chief work, the Commentary on the Pentateuch, is distinguished by originality and charm. The author was a mystic as well as a philologist,. and hfs works unite with peculiar harmony the qualities of reason and feeling. He was also a Talmudist of high repute, and wrote glosses on various Tractates, Responsa and other legal works. Though not a philosopher, he was drawn into the controversy that arose over the scholastic method of Maimonides. He endeavoured to steer a middle course between the worshippers and the excommunicators of Maimonides, but he did not succeed in healing the breach. His homiletic books, Epistle on Sanctity (Iggereth ha-qodesh) and Law of Man (Torath ha-Adam), which deal respectively with the sanctity of marriage and the solemnity of death, are full of intense spirituality, while at the same time treating of ritual customs - a combination which shows essential Rabbinism at its best. He occupies an important position in the history of the acceptance by medieval Jews of the Kabbala (q.v.); for, though he made no fresh contributions to the philosophy of mysticism, the fact that this famous rabbi was himself a mystic induced a favourable attitude in many who would other- 'wise have rejected mysticism as Maimonides did. In 1263 Nahmanides was forced to enter into a public disputation with a Jewish-Christian, Pablo Christiani, in the presence of King James of Aragon. Though Nachmanides was assured that perfect freedom of speech was conceded to him, his defence was pronounced blasphemous and he was banished for life. In 1267 he went to Palestine and settled at Acre. He died about 1270.

See S. Schechter, Studies in Judaism, first series, pp. 120 seq.; Graetz, History of the Jews (English translation vol. iii. ch. xvi. and xvii.). (I. A.)

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