Page 173 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 51

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KANARFOGEL/ON THE ASSESSMENT OF NAHMANIDES
165
kabbalah rather than maintaining that Ramban, as a kabbalist,
had to accept all aggadic statements as binding, is also able to
integrate Ramban’s rejection of certain aggadic passages in his
Torah commentary as well as Ramban’s stance concerning
aggadah at Barcelona.23 The position taken by Nahmanides in
his Torah commentary concerning the fallibility of the Patri­
archs appears to be particularly bold in light of his involvement
in the Jewish-Christian debate.24 Moreover, Shlomo Pines has
argued for Christian influences on Nahmanides’ treatment of
the Creation story, as did Gershom Scholem.25
ROLE OF PH ILO SOPH Y
Related to the nature of Ramban’s kabbalah is his attitude
toward philosophy. Despite the claim of a thirteenth-century
philosopher, R. Zerahyah Hen, that Nahmanides did not display
competence in philosophical studies,26 as well as statements by
Nahmanides to the effect that philosophers of his day had
missed the mark,27Ramban was familiar with large tracts of me­
dieval Jewish and general philosophical literature and integrat­
ed them effectively into his corpus. Given the affinity between
Neoplatonic thought and Jewish mysticism, it is hardly surpris­
ing that Nahmanides, among other members of the Gerona
school of kabbalah, made particular use of Neoplatonic mate­
rial.28 Far more striking are the facts, demonstrated by David
23. See above, n. 20.
24. See David Berger, “On the Morality of the Patriarchs in Jewish Polemic
and Exegesis,”
Understanding Scripture,
ed. Clemens Thoma and Michael
Wyschogrod (New York, 1989), pp. 49-53.
25. See Shlomo Pines, “Divrei ha-Ramban ‘al Adam ha-Rishon be-Gan Eden
le-Or Peirushim Aherim ‘al Bereshit Bet ve-Gimmel,”
Galut Ahar Golah,
ed. Aharon Mirsky et al. (Jerusalem, 1988), pp. 159-64. See also Gershom
Scholem,
Origins of the Kabbalah
(Princeton, 1987), p. 449; Bezalel Safran,
“Rabbi Azriel and Nahmanides,” p. 106; and A. Funkenstein (above, n.
13), pp. 35-59 [=129-50].
26. See Moritz Giidemann,
Ha-Torah veha-Hayyim
(Warsaw, 1899), v. 2, pp.
134-35, 150-52; Septimus, “Open Rebuke,” p. 25, n. 45; Aviezer Ravitzky,
Al Da'at ha-Makom
(Jerusalem, 1991), pp. 153-54. Cf. Ritva,
Sefer ha-Zikkaron,
pp. 46-48, 55-56, 86-88.
27. See Scholem,
Origins,
p. 403, and Idel, “Maimonides and Kabbalah,” pp.
37-38, n. 16.
28. See, e.g., G. Scholem,
Ha-Kabbalah be-Gerona,
pp. 123-40; Sara O. Heller-
Willensky, “Al ’ha-Nivra ha-Rishon’ be-Reshit ha-Kabbalah u-Mekorotav ha-
Filosofiyyim,”
Mehkarim be-Hagut Yehudit,
ed. S.O. Willensky and M. Idel