Page 179 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 51

Basic HTML Version

KANARFOGEL / ON THE ASSESSMENT OF NAHMANIDES
171
R. Yehudah b. Yakar, a major teacher of Ramban in talmudic
studies and apparently in mysticism as well, had meaningful
contact with
Hasidei Ashkenaz.
The impact of
Sefer ha-Bahir
on
Ramban is also noteworthy.
Sefer ha-Bahir
s circulation among
Hasidei Ashkenaz
prior to its arrival in Provence and Spain has
been confirmed. Indeed, all of these details accord with the
larger claim, made in several recent studies, that a number of
crucial Spanish mystical teachings were received from
Hasidei
Ashkenaz.™
In terms of biblical exegesis, Ramban was directly
influenced by Radak, the leading Provencal commentator, and
by R. Yosef Bekhor Shor, among other
peshat
exegetes of north­
ern France.50
The geographic and ideological diversity of these figures
might lead us to brand Nahmanides, as some have done with
ibn Ezra, an eclectic. This designation does not begin, however,
to capture the manner in which Nahmanides developed and
synthesized his vast erudition. Nahmanides integrated an un­
usually wide array of disciplines, methodologies and concerns,
in a seamless fashion. One almost gets the sense that Ramban,
in preparation for his task, sought to be able to understand
kabbalah with the greatest of kabbalists, to uncover
peshuto shel
mikra
with the best of the
pashtanim,
to ponder philosophical
questions with the most prominent Jewish thinkers, in addition
to developing a dazzling mastery of talmudic literature.
Nahmanides could speak the language of each discipline sep­
arately, but he managed to blend them as well. In this sense,
49. See the literature cited in my “Rabbinic Figures in Castilian Kabbalistic
Pseudepigraphy: R. Yehudah he-Hasid and R. Elhanan o f Corbeil
"Journal
of Jewish Thought and Philosophy
3 (1993) [in press], nn. 73, 99, 108. For
the influence o f the
Bahir
on Ramban, see Wolfson, “By Way o f Truth,”
177-78; M. Oron, “Kavvim le-Torat ha-Nefesh,” (above, n. 27), pp. 284-88;
and J. Katz, “Halakhah ve-Kabbalah: Magga’im Rishonim,” pp. 30-31.
50. The claim made by both Chavel, in his introduction to
Peirushei ha-Ramban
‘al Nevi’im u-Khetuvim,
p. 6, and Septimus, “Open Rebuke,” pp. 17-18, n.
27, that Radak was a major source for Ramban despite the fact that his
name is hardly mentioned, has been demonstrated by Hillel Novetsky, “The
Influence o f Rabbi Joseph Bekhor Shor and Radak on Ramban’s Commen­
tary on the Torah,” (M.A. thesis, Yeshiva University, 1992). The influence
o f Bekhor Shor appears to have been less than that o f Radak. For the
possible Provencal roots o f Ramban’s extensive use of Talmud Yerushalmi
and his defense o f
Hilkhot ha-Rif
see B.Z. Benedikt,
Merkaz ha-Torah bi-
Provence
(Jerusalem, 1985), pp. 11, n. 76, 52, n. 146, and cf. I. Twersky
(above, n. 37), and Ta-Shema,
EJ
12:779.