Page 167 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 51

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KANARFOGEL / ON THE ASSESSMENT OF NAHMANIDES
159
protean oeuvre, which included extensive talmudic commen­
taries, halakhic critiques (
hassagot
), monographs and responsa,
as well as a unique Torah commentary and sermonic expositions
(derashot),
could not be gainsaid. Nahmanides’ works had an un­
deniable impact upon subsequent generations of rabbinic schol­
ars. Perhaps most significant, Nahmanides appeared to be a
complex, multifaceted thinker, whose corpus eluded facile or
even neat definition and description.3 Moreover, Nahmanides
consistently expressed himself with humility, despite his diverse
accomplishments, which also included training in the medical
sciences.4 His role in the disputation at Barcelona in 1263 was
seen as an affirmation of his prowess as a scholar, his leadership
qualities, and his ability to interact effectively with Jews and
Christians alike.5
3. See Graetz, pp. 122-31, and Chaim Tchernowitz,
Toledot ha-Posekim,
v. 2
(New York, 1947), pp. 106-17. R. Hayyim Yosef David Azulai (Hida),
Shem
ha-Gedolim, ma'arekhet gedolim,
s.v.
R. Moses b. Nahman,
described Ramban
as
“maVakh melitz tov ‘al ha-rishonim."
Two articles by Joseph Perles, “Ueber
den Geist des Commentars des R. Moses ben Nachman zum Pentateuch
und iiber sein Verhaltniss zum Pentateuch-Commentar Raschi’s,
Monatsschrift fur Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judenthums
7 (1858): 81-97,
117-36, and “Nachtrage iiber R. Moses ben Nachman,” [which includes
a critical transcription o f Nahmanides’ famous letter to the rabbis o f north­
ern France in defense o f Maimonides]
MGWJ
9 (1860): 184-95, have been
cited and lauded consistently by modern scholarship for their insights into
Ramban’s methodologies and intellectual hierarchy. Note also Solomon
Schechter’s biographical portrait, “Nachmanides,”
Jewish Quarterly Review
5 (1895): 78-128
[ = Studies in Judaism
(1st Series, repr. Philadelphia, 1945)
pp. 99-141.]
4. On Ramban’s attitudes toward medicine and science, see J.O. Leibowitz,
“Netunim Refu’iyyim be-Sefer Torat ha-Adam le-R. Mosheh ben Nahman,”
Koroth
8 (1983): 209-15; David Horwitz, “Rashba’s Attitude Towards Science
and its Limits,”
Torah u-Madda Journal
3 (1991-92): 51-82; and Y.T.
Langermann, “Acceptance and Devaluation: Nahmanides’ Attitude To­
wards Science,”
Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy
2 [in press]. See
also M. Idel (below, n. 10), pp. 61-62; E. Wolfson (below, n. 13), p. 118,
n. 45; B. Septimus (below, n. 18), pp. 24-25, n. 45; and cf. I. Twersky,
Introduction to the Code of Maimonides
(New Haven, 1980), p. 497. For
Ramban’s views on the practice of medicine as a livelihood, see Samuel
Kottek, “Refu’ah ve-Halakhah be-Sefer Hasidim,”
Assia
10 (1984): 37-42.
5. Note the claim by Simon Dubnow,
Divrei Yemei Am Olam
(Tel Aviv, 1968),
v. 5, p. 66, that Nahmanides’ “report on the disputation at Barcelona has
historical and religious value and will certainly live longer than his big books
in
halakhah."
Cf. Dubnow, pp. 53-54, 61-62, 65, and I. Twersky’s intro­
duction to
R. Moses b. Nahman (Ramban): Explorations in His Religious and