Page 171 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 51

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KANARFOGEL / ON THE ASSESSMENT OF NAHMANIDES
163
Since his biblical commentaries were the venue for most of
his kabbalistic material, a discussion of Nahmanides as kabbalist
must also entail consideration of Nahmanides as biblical exegete.
The relationship between his intense desire to pursue
peshat
(straightforward) exegesis and his affinity for offering esoteric
interpretations
(sod,
usually called
derekh ha-’emet
) has been an­
alyzed in recent literature. Amos Funkenstein has written that
peshat
and
sod
almost never overlap in Nahmanides’ commen­
taries.17 David Berger and Bernard Septimus have adduced,
however, numerous instances in which
peshat
and
sod
do coin­
cide. In several of these cases, Ramban openly suggests that
the interpretation which best fits the verse is the one arrived
at through kabbalistic exegesis. Indeed, Nahmanides broadened
the conception of
peshat
held by Ibn Ezra to include kabbalistic
considerations among others. Among contemporary kabbalists,
Nahmanides’ devotion to
peshat
exegesis is atypical.18
HIS VIEW OF AGGADAH
I f Nahmanides’ interest in
peshat
exegesis is somewhat unusual
in light of his kabbalistic orientation, his use of midrash and
aggadah as sources of kabbalistic teachings is to be expected.
And yet, in placing Nahmanides’ attitude toward aggadah in
the context of his overarching thesis that Nahmanides owed
much to Andalusian rationalism , Septimus writes tha t
16. See M. Idel (above, n. 11); J. Katz, “Halakhah ve-Kabbalah:
Magga'im
Rishonim,”
pp. 20-32; and Joseph Dan,
Jewish Mysticism and Jewish Ethics
(Seattle, 1986), pp. 28-39. On the relationship between Ramban and the
other
mekubbalei Gerona,
whose kabbalistic school was not as monolithic as
heretofore thought, see also Bezalel Safran, “R. Azriel and Nahmanides:
Two Views o f the Fall o f Man,”
Ramban Explorations,
pp. 75-106; M. Idel
(below n. 45), and “Be-Or ha-Hayyim: Iyyun be-Eskatologiyyah Kabbalit,”
Kiddush ha-Hayyim ve-Heruf ha-Nefesh,
ed. Y. Gafni and A. Ravitzky (Jeru­
salem, 1993), pp. 191-205; Idel, “Tefisat ha-Torah be-Sifrut ha-Heikhalot
ve-Gilgulehah ba-Kabbalah,”
Mehkerei Yerushalayim be-Mahashevet Yisrael
1:3
(1982): 49-58; idem., “Ha-Mahashavah ha-Yehudit bi-Sefarad shel Yemei
ha-Benayim,”
Moreshet Sefarad,
ed. H. Beinart (Jerusalem, 1992), pp.
216-18; and below, n. 28.
17. See Funkenstein (above, n. 13), pp. 46-47 [=133].
18. David Berger, “Miracles and the Natural Order in Nahmanides,”
Ramban:
Explorations,
pp. 112-13, n. 19, and Bernard Septimus, “ ‘Open Rebuke and
Concealed Love’: Nahmanides and the Anadalusian Tradition,”
Ramban:
Explorations,
pp. 17-18, 22, n. 41. See also E. Wolfson, “The Secret o f the
Garment in Nahmanides,”
Da'at
24 (1990) [English section]: 29, 47.