Page 78 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 54

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by fellow members of the Gerona school of kabbalah, such as
those of R. Ezra b. Solomon, were not accepted by Ramban unless
he was certain that they had emerged from a reliable kabbalistic
tradition. In addition, Nahmanides was uncomfortable speculating
about or expanding upon the secrets that he received.11 Jacob
Katz attributed Ramban’s reticence to a concern, felt by other
medieval halakhists, about enunciating kabbalistic considerations
which might impinge on halakhic matters.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 inten­
tionally, also encouraged students of kabbalah to attempt to explain
his allusions.13Moreover, Ramban employed a dynamic kabbalistic
hermeneutical method that is represented by his statement, “in
the truest sense Scripture speaks of lower matters and alludes to
supernal matters.”14In the realm of esoteric interpretation, Nah­
manides followed both a theosophical system as well as a mystical
tradition which read the text of Scripture as a matrix of Divine
names.15All agree, however, that Nahmanides was opposed to the
11. M. Idel, “W e Have No Kabbalistic Tradition,” pp. 53-73. Cf. below, n.
12. Jacob Katz, “Halakhah ve-Kabbalah: Magga'im Rishonim,” [reprinted in
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, Shevu'ot
29a, s.v.
ha di-tenan
(end), and I. Unna (above, n.
6), p. 23;
Bava Batra
12a, s.v.
ha de-amrinan,
and S. Abramson, “Navi, Ro’eh
Sefer ha-Yovel Muqdash li-Khevod ha-Rav Mordechai Kirschblum,
David Telsner (Jerusalem, 1983), p. 118, n. 3;
49b, s.v.
13. Elliot Wolfson, “‘By W ay of Truth’: Aspects o f Nahmanides’ Kabbalistic
AJS Review
14 (1989): 103-5. Cf. Amos Funkenstein, “Parshanuto
ha-Tippologit shel ha-Ramban,”
45 (1980): 5 8 -5 9 [=“Nahmanides’
Symbolical Reading of History,”
Studies in Jewish Mysticism,
ed. Joseph Dan and
Frank Talmage (Cambridge, Mass., 1982), p. 142]. For medieval explanations of
Ramban’s kabbalistic allusions, see Idel, “Perush Lo Yadua' le-Sodot ha-Ramban,”
2 (1978): 12 1-26 , and Gottlieb,
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 of Divine names is found in the teachings of the German Pietists;
cf. below, n. 49.