Page 170 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 51

Basic HTML Version

162
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
\
Ramban unless he was certain that they had emerged from a
reliable kabbalistic tradition. In addition, Nahmanides was un­
comfortable speculating about or expanding upon the secrets
that he received." Jacob Katz attributed Ramban’s reticence to
a concern, felt by other medieval halakhists, about enunciating
kabbalistic considerations which might impinge on halakhic mat­
ters.12
Elliot Wolfson, on the other hand, has argued that Ramban’s
warning against speculation about kabbalistic secrets and ideas
is overshadowed by the fact that he included allusions to these
secrets in his biblical commentaries. Nahmanides thus brought
kabbalistic material to the attention of a general audience and,
perhaps unintentionally, also encouraged students of kabbalah
to attempt to explain his allusions.13 Moreover, Ramban em­
ployed a dynamic kabbalistic hermeneutical method that is rep­
resented by his statement, “in the truest sense Scripture speaks
o f lower matters and alludes to supernal matters.”14In the realm
o f esoteric interpretation, Nahmanides followed both a theo-
sophical system as well as a mystical tradition which read the
text of Scripture as a matrix of Divine names.15All agree, how­
ever, that Nahmanides was opposed to the approach adopted
by other members of the Gerona school which favored direct
and open dissemination of kabbalistic teachings.16
11. M. Idel, “We Have No Kabbalistic Tradition,” pp. 53-73. Cf. below, n.
16.
12. Jacob Katz, “Halakhah ve-Kabbalah: Magga'im Rishonim,” [reprinted in
his]
Halakhah ve-Kabbalah
(Jerusalem, 1986), pp. 29-32; “Halakhah ve-
Kabbalah ke-Nos’ei Limmud Mitharim,”
Halakhah ve-Kabbalah,
pp. 76-77.
There appears to be virtually no kabbalistic material in Ramban’s talmudic
commentaries. Cf.
Hiddushei ha-Ramban, Shevuot
29a, s.v.
ha ditenan
(end),
and I Unna (above, n. 6), p. 23.
13. Elliot Wolfson, “ ‘By Way o f Truth’: Aspects o f Nahmanides’ Kabbalistic
Hermeneutic,”
AJS Review
14 (1989): 103-05. Cf. Amos Funkenstein,
“Parshanuto ha-Tippologit shel ha-Ramban,”
Zion
45 (1980): 58-59
[ = “Nahmanides’ Symbolical Reading o f History,”
Studies inJewish Mysticism,
ed. Joseph Dan and Frank Talmage (Cambridge, Mass., 1982), p. 142].
For medieval explanations o f Ramban’s kabbalistic allusions, see Idel,
“Peirush Lo Yadua* le-Sodot ha-Ramban,”
Da'at
2 (1978): 121-26, and
Gottlieb,
Mehkarim,
pp. 569-70.
14. See Ramban’s commentary to Genesis 1:2.
15. See Wolfson, “ ‘By Way o f Truth,’ ”
p.
190. Ramban’s view o f the Torah
as an amalgam o f Divine names is found in the teachings o f the German
Pietists; cf. below, n. 49.