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71
R. Moses b. Nahman
approach adopted by other members of the Gerona school which
favored direct and open dissemination of kabbalistic teachings.16
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
(straight­
forward) exegesis and his affinity for offering esoteric interpreta­
tions
(sod,
usually called
derekh ha-’emet)
has been analyzed in
recent literature. Amos Funkenstein has written that
peshat
and
sod
almost never overlap in Nahmanides’ commentaries.17 David
Berger and Bernard Septimus have adduced, however, numerous
instances in which
peshat
and
sod
do coincide. 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
H IS V IE W OF A G G A D AH
If Nahmanides’ interest in peshat exegesis is somewhat unusual
in light of his kabbalistic orientation, his use of midrash and
16. See. M. Idel (above, n. 11); J. Katz, “Halakhah ve-Kabbalah: Magga‘im
Rishonim,” pp. 20-32; and Joseph Dan
,Jewish MysticismandJewish Ethics
(Seattle,
1986), pp. 28-39. On the relationship between Ramban and the other
mekubbalei
Gerona
, whose kabbalistic school was not as monolithic as heretofeore thought,
see also Bezalal Safran, “R. Azriel and Nahmanides: Two Views of the Fall of
Man,”
Ramban: Explorations,
pp. 7 5 -106 ; M. Idel (below, n. 45), and “Be-Or
ha-Hayyim: Iyyun be-Eskatologiyyah Kabbalit,”
Kiddush ha-Hayyim ve-Herufha-
Nefesh,
ed. Y. Gafni and A. Ravitsky (Jerusalem, 1993), pp. 1 9 i—205; Idel, “Tefisat
he-Torah be-Sifrut ha-Heikhalot ve-Gilgulehah ba-Kabbalah,”
Mehkerei
Yerushalayim be-Mahashevet Yisra’el
1:3 (1982): 49 -58 ; idem., “He-Mahshavah
ha-Yehudit bi-Sepharad shel Yemei ha-Benayim,”
Moreshet Sefarad,
ed. H. Beinart
(Jerusalem, 1992), pp. 2 16 -2 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. 1 1 2 - 1 3 , n. 19 and Bernard Septimus, “ ‘Open Rebuke and
Concealed Love’ : Nahmanides and the Andalusian 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.