Page 87 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 54

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79
R. Moses b. Nahman
influence, as did other unnamed German Pietists. In addition, R.
Yehudah b. Yakar, a major teacher of Ramban in talmudic studies
and apparendy 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.49In 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 northern 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 unusually 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 prom­
inent Jewish thinkers, in addition to developing a dazzling mastery
of talmudic literature. Nahmanides could speak the language of
each discipline separately, but he managed to blend them as well:
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): 97-98, n. 73; 105-6, n. 99; 108-9, n. 108.
For the influence o f the
Bahir
on Ramban, see Wolfson, “By Way of Truth,”
177-78 ; M. Oron, “Kawim le-Torat ha-Nefesh,” (above, n. 28), pp. 284-88 ;
and J. Katz. “Halakhah ve-Kabbalah: Magga’im Rishonim,” p. 30 -31.
50. The claim made by both Chavel, in his introduction to
Perushei ha-Ramban
lal 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 Commentary on the
Torah,” (M.A. thesis, Yeshiva University, 1992). The influence o f Bekhor Shor
appears to have been less than that of Radak. For the possible Proven
9
al roots of
Ramban’s extensive use of Talmud Yerushalmi and his defense
oiHilkhot ha-Rif
see B.Z. Benedikt,
Merkaz ha-Torah bi-Provans
(Jerusalem, 1985), pp. 11 , n. 76,
52, n. 146, and cf. Twersky (above, n. 37), and Ta-Shma,
EJ,
12:779.