Nachmanides’ strange understandings of demons, hell, souls, women’s period, rape, and other subjects

The following is a draft of a chapter from my forthcoming book “Nachmanides: An Unusual Thinker,” which should be published sometime this year

 

The prior chapter examined Nachmanides’ mystical view of God. This chapter looks at his approach to other subjects. Did Nachmanides insist that midrashic tales are not parables, but true facts? Did this insistence lead to difficult and unscientific conclusions? Was superstition an integral part of his life and thinking? What was his understanding of “life after death”? What were his opinions about hell? Did he believe in the transmigration of souls? Was he convinced that women are evil? Did he decide that a woman who was involuntarily raped is polluted and that the innocently raped woman may no longer live with her husband? Did he say that people could read future events in biblical passages? What were his unique feelings about the land of Israel? Did he teach that idols exist and can help people? Was he certain that magic and divination work but Jews are forbidden to use it? Did he imagine that astrology influences people? What were his views about angels and demons? How did he appraise his rabbinic predecessors and contemporaries and Targum Onkelos? How did he use mysticism?

Midrashic legends are historical truths

Nachmanides insisted that the midrashic tales are true accounts of past events. His commentaries to Genesis 11:28 and 32 are excellent examples of his manner of thinking. He retells the imaginative non-biblical talmudic legend of Abraham destroying his father’s idols,[1] and expands upon the story, giving his original details. He insists that the episode is true and warns us not to be misled by ibn Ezra who argues that the story is a simple legend, a parable that was invented to teach a moral lesson.[2]

His commentary to Exodus 33:6 is another illustration of Nachmanides accepting Midrash literally. Midrash Exodus Rabbah 45:1 states that God gave the Israelites armor when they stood at Mount Sinai and received the Decalogue. The Midrash states that the gift protected the people from dangers, including the angel of death, and gave them immortality. However, the Israelites later rejected the gift. They saw that some of the people worshipped the golden calf and felt unworthy of the divine present; they returned the protective armor and were again subject to death.

Still another example is his acceptance of the truthfulness of the midrashic tale of the first human creation being a single body with both male and female parts that were later divided.[3] He writes that the two sexes were an eizer, “helpmate,” to one another while being combined, but the Bible calls the female part eizer khenegdo, “a helpmate next to him,” after the separation.

Interestingly, Nachmanides’ belief that midrashic legends are recollections of actual historical events brought him trouble in his old age and led to his need to escape from Spain and flee for Israel. In 1263, he was involved in a public religious debate with the apostate Jew, Pablo Christiani, in Barcelona before King James I concerning the validity of Judaism. Pablo contended that some of the midrashic stories that Nachmanides had insisted were true occurrences foreshadowed the birth and mission of Jesus.[4] Nachmanides sidestepped Pablo’s trap by disclaiming his belief in the truthfulness and the authority of midrashim, and said that they are only legends.[5]

His belief in the truthfulness of midrashim lead to difficult conclusions

Nachmanides’ commentary on Exodus 19:13 was influenced by his belief in the truthfulness of midrashic stories, God’s daily involvement in human affairs, miracles occurring daily, the patriarchs observing the Torah before it was given to Moses generations after their death, and an anthropomorphic deity. Exodus 19:13 reads, “when the yoveil (ram’s horn) sounds, they (the Israelites who were told not to approach Mount Sinai while the Decalogue was being revealed) shall come up the mount.” Nachmanides notes that Rashi quotes a Midrash that states that the ram’s horn used here was that of Isaac’s ram.[6] Nachmanides accepts the truthfulness of the midrashic tale, but asks how this is possible since the ram was offered as an olah, a burnt offering, and the law in Leviticus 1:9 and 13 states that the entire animal, including its horn must be burnt.[7] “Perhaps,” he replies, “the Holy One, blessed be He, shaped the ashes of the horn and restored it to what it was originally.” Since Rashi and Nachmanides were convinced that the sound was not a noise created by God, but that a physical horn was blown, who blew it if not an anthropomorphic God?

Superstition

Nachmanides was very superstitious. Numbers 14:9 relates that when the Israelites murmured against Moses and said that they wanted to return to Egypt rather than battle against the Canaanites, Joshua and Caleb attempted to calm them by saying, “Only rebel not against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land, for they are bread for us, their defense is removed from over them, and the Lord is with us; fear them not.” Nachmanides read into this verse a superstitious notion that did not at all fit the context of the passage, “the well-known fact that there will be no shadow over the head of a person (on the night of Hoshanah Rabbah, the seventh day of Succoth, when some believe that God decides the future of people) who will die that year.” The earliest Jewish reference to this wide spread Christian notion is found in the writings of Eleazar of Worms, a short time before Nachmanides.[8]

The people believed, like Nachmanides, that if they could not see their head, they would die during the year. If their right hand was not visible, their son would die, and if it was their left, their daughter would perish. Some of these people felt they could save themselves from the omen predicted by the shadow of the moon by giving charity.[9] The Zohar also has this belief. It tells a tale of a person who was no longer able to see his shadow, and writes:[10] “So long as a person’s shadow has not left him, his spirit is sustained within him. But as soon as the shadow departs and cannot be seen, that person is already in the process of departing from the world.”

Life after death

There are many inconsistencies in the logic of Nachmanides. One would expect, for example, that he, as a mystic, would conceive of life after death, the world to come, as a body-less period of mystical union with the divine, but Nachmanides contended that, “the world to come is not a world of disembodied souls. … Those who are resurrected there will exist in body and soul.”[11]

Hell

Contrary to Maimonides,[12] Nachmanides was convinced that a physical Hell (Gahanna) exists where bodies of certain sinners are punished for as long as twelve months. At the end of the year, their bodies are destroyed, but their souls continue to live. Sinners with heinous crimes have their souls destroyed.[13] He also wrote of the existence of a physical paradise (Gan Eden), which, like Gahanna, he described at great length.[14]

Transmigration of souls

Relying on Genesis 3:8 and Leviticus 18:6, Nachmanides believed in the transmigration of souls, the passing of a person’s soul after death into another newly born body. He used this notion to explain why righteous people are punished. People suffer because of their sins and for no other reason. Righteous people suffer because of the sins their soul committed in a prior life.[15] Conversely, wicked individuals may prosper because of righteous deeds they performed in their prior life. He also used this idea to explain the biblical command that one should marry the wife of his deceased brother when the deceased left no child: the living brother was making it possible for the transmigration of his brother’s soul within the family.[16]

His belief in the transmigration of souls affected his understanding of many other subjects. He wrote that when people eat or drink animal blood, their souls change and absorb the animal’s characteristics (Leviticus 17:11), and this must not happen since their soul will be transmigrated and their wrongful act changes the lives of many future people. He felt that certain sexual relationships were biblically forbidden, such as homosexuality, sex during menstruation, near relatives, and bestiality because such sex creates problems with the transmigration of souls and because these unions would produce unhealthy offsprings (Leviticus 18:6, 21). This lesson is contained in the scriptural prohibition against grafting certain fruits and vegetables together and mixing wool and linen. These laws teach people that human joining must be done properly (Leviticus 19:19) for the “Torah permitted sexual intercourse only for the sake of raising children (Leviticus 18:19).[17]

Nachmanides’ pupil’s pupil Bachya ben Asher wrote[18] that the patriarch Abraham was the reincarnation of Adam, the first human creation. He said, “He resembled Adam spiritually in that he spent the early years of his life as an idolater whereas he became a penitent like his ancestor Adam.” He also contended that the soul of Abel, who was killed by his brother Cain, was reincarnated in Moses.[19]

Women

The ancient attitude of many men to women, in Greece, Rome, and Judaism from at least the Greek and Roman period, if not earlier, was poor. The conception by men of women was on the whole based upon the observation that women, who were uneducated, act in unsophisticated ways. However, as poor as this attitude was, the idea of many mystics was worse, for they saw the female as the source of evil.

Nachmanides and other mystics, such as Bachya ben Asher thought that the world derives its power from the two sides of the sepherot, the divine emanations. They believed that the right side of God, the male side, is the source of good, and the left side, the female side of God, is evil. As Bachya put it,[20] “This explains why Eve’s soul received input from the serpent (why she was seduced by the serpent to eat of the fruit of the tree of good and evil in the Garden of Eden), since she was produced by the left emanations (of the divine sepherot), the female ones.” Thus, he continues, “it was entirely natural that the serpent had sex with her and not with Adam. The affinity between the origin of the soul of Eve and the origin of the serpent, made it likely that she would be a victim to instant seduction.”

The mystics viewed menstruation as a punishment inflicted upon all women because Eve ate a fruit from the tree of good and evil in violation of God’s explicit prohibition. They thought of the blood flow as effusion of evil, an ebullition of disgust. Nachmanides[21] states that he agrees with people who have decided to distance themselves as much as possible from menstruating women. She contaminates even the earth upon which she steps. One should take no benefit from her. Even otherwise innocuous speech from such a woman is impure. A proper person does not even speak about such a woman or even ask about her health. Her contamination radiates from her: if she looks in a mirror for some time, red blood-like spots appear on the glass.[22]

Bachya ben Asher[23] reflected the view of Nachmanides when he wrote “as soon as Eve was created Satan was created along with her.” He wrote,[24] “Women may be perceived as the body, the personification of the evil urge.” He contended[25] that women could be easily seduced and even Abraham took advantage of their weak nature: “When Abraham wanted to get Sarah’s agreement to tell the lie (about she being his sister, so that the Egyptians would not kill him when they would kidnap Sarah) he introduced his request by complimenting her on her beauty (‘now I know that you are a beautiful woman’).”

Maimonides disagreed: “The prohibition of eating (food prepared by a menstruating woman) or (touching) a garment handled by the menstruating woman is a Karaitic practice. He who distances himself (from a menstruating woman) because of this prohibition has removed himself from rabbinic Judaism and has denied the oral Torah!”[26]

Raped women are defiled and prohibited to their husbands

Nachmanides[27] felt that raped women are polluted and can no longer have sex with their husbands. He explains that Reuben slept with his father’s concubine for mercenary reasons. He imagines that Bilhah was the only woman left with whom Jacob could have children. The Bible states that Rachel died and he supposes that Leah was too old to give birth and her servant Zilpah was also too old or had died. If Bilhah gave birth, Nachmanides argued, Jacob would have had another child and his share of the inheritance would be reduced. So he slept with Bilhah, defiled her, and made it impossible for Jacob to sleep with her again.[28]

Maimonides’ view of the Jewish law is contrary to that of Nachmanides. In his Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Ishut 24:6, 17 and 19, he states:

When a woman commits adultery … he is obligated to divorce her and is forbidden to have sex with her. (However) A woman who committed adultery unknowingly or who was raped is permitted to (have sex with) her husband … (whether) a non-Jew or a Jew raped her.[29]

Bible predicts future events

Nachmanides saw the curses in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 27 as an oracle forecasting what would occur during and after the destruction of the first and second Temples, respectively. He does not discuss the difficulty, raised by this view that this understanding appears to deny the concept of free will.[30] The Zohar, Sforno, and Bachya agree with Nachmanides. Rashi and Rashbam appear to do so as well, but not as explicitly. Abrabanel states that both sections foretell the destruction of the first Temple and its aftermath. Midrash Pesikta states that Deuteronomy predicts the occurrences of the first Temple and Leviticus the second. In view of these differences, the possibility for various, even contrary interpretations, is clear in that the chapters are not as explicit as commentators suppose. Ibn Ezra and Maimonides reject the idea that the Bible is relating future events. They understand the verses to warn of dire consequences if the Israelites refuse to obey God’s laws, but not a promise that the misfortunes will occur.[31]

The sanctity of the land of Israel

Nachmanides had a profound love of the land of Israel, which he considered sacred ground, and contrary to Maimonides, he insisted that settlement is Israel as a divine commandment.[32] His feeling that the Israel was holy was so intense that he stated that God killed Jacob’s beloved second wife Rachel just prior to the family entering the land of Israel so that the patriarch Jacob, who was allowed to marry two sisters outside of Israel, would not violate the Torah’s command forbidding matrimony with two sisters in Israel, thereby desecrating the holy earth.[33]

Nachmanides[34] was convinced that God only exercises divine power in Israel for only Israel is a holy land. God set other divine-like powers to control other lands. “There is in this matter a secret relating to that which the rabbis have said (in the above quoted talmudic statement): ‘He who dwells outside of the land of Israel is like one who has no God.’”[35] He understands that the Talmud is stating that people who live outside of Israel are under the influence and power of these other supernatural beings and even if they try to worship God it is as if they have no God. Maimonides rejected this notion out of hand. When he escaped the persecution of Jews in Spain and Morocco and came to Israel and saw the terrible conditions facing Jews in the land, he had no problem leaving and settling in Egypt where he was a fully practicing Jew.

This love of the land of Israel also led Nachmanides to the doctrine that all the Torah commandments are only divinely obligated upon those who are dwelling in Israel. Outside of the land, Jews observe the laws only so that they will not be “new to us” when we return to the land of Israel.[36]

Nachmanides’ view that the Bible requires Jews to conquer the land of Israel and dwell in it is problematical. He derived this command from Numbers 33:53, which states: “You should take the land as a possession and dwell in it, because I gave it to you as a possession.” In his glosses to Maimonides’ Sefer HaMitzvot, he cites the Babylonian Talmud, Sotah 44b, which calls Joshua’s war against the Canaanite nations an “obligatory war.”

Do not assume erroneously that the obligatory war applies only to the seven (Canaanite) nations. This is untrue. We will not abandon this land to idolatrous nations throughout the (subsequent) generations. Even if these nations will run from us and leave the land, we are still commanded (today) to come to the land, conquer it and settle it with our people. … Hence, this is a command for all generations and is an obligation for every individual.

This gloss places an obligation on Jews to act to conquer Israel, but Nachmanides’ biblical comments seem to be contradictory: it is God, not human beings, who will give Jews the land of Israel. He cites Psalms 44:4, “For not by their sword will they inherit the land, nor through their strength will they be helped, but by Your right arm, Your strength.”[37]

Furthermore, his reliance on Numbers 33:53 to support his view that Jews have a perpetual obligation to conquer Israel whenever it is not in Jewish possession is problematical. Verses 50–56 concern Joshua’s entry into Canaan, as Sotah 44b also saw it. God gave directions to the Israelites as they stood near Jericho, ready to cross the Jordan and conquer Canaan. The verses state explicitly that what is mentioned is what the Israelites should do when they cross the Jordan. The verses speak of the Israelite duty to also destroy the Canaanite idols and altars as they enter the land. They also tell how the conquered land is to be divided among the tribes. There is no command in Numbers or anywhere else in the Bible, requiring Jews to conquer and settle the land in future years.

Although Nachmanides stressed the importance of settlement in Israel and his belief that one does not observe biblical mitzvoth outside Israel, he did not leave Spain to settle in Israel until his old age, several years before his death, and even then only to escape the threat of assassination due to his involvement in the religious debate of 1263.

Nachmanides’ student’s student Bachya ben Asher held a similar view about the sanctity and power of Israel. In his commentary to Genesis 11:30, he writes that when Abraham and Sarah saw that she was barren, they “decided to leave their home and move to Canaan with the hope that because of the merit of the holy land they would be able to have children.” In his commentary to 12:6, he writes that in addition to holiness, Canaan has the perfect climate, better than every other land.

Idolatry, magic, and divination

Nachmanides’ view of life and his contention that the world is dependent on the metaphysical, is exemplified in his view of idolatry, magic, and divination. Idolatry, he maintains, is not prohibited because it is based on a false belief in the existence of non-existing gods. The opposite is true. Jews are forbidden to worship idols because although they exist and are powerful, Jews may not have any dealings with them because Jews are God’s people and must not reject God by seeking help, which would be efficacious, from the idols.[38] The Zohar also contends that the “gods of the nations” that are mentioned in the Bible are not useless material but actual celestial beings with real, but limited powers to influence the world and people.[39]

Astrology

Similarly, although he was convinced that the sun, moon, stars, and constellations have power over people and influence them for good and bad, Jews are forbidden to worship these objects.[40] The same applies to magic and divination, which works as is “well-known to the eyes of all viewers.”[41] Unlike Maimonides, who strongly criticized those who believed in the foolishness of astrology, Nachmanides was convinced that it worked.[42]

Nachmanides used his belief in astrology to explain[43] that Moses did not include the tribe of Simeon in his blessings because, among other reasons, Moses needed to divide the tribe of Joseph into two and this would have resulted in thirteen blessings. Simeon had to be excluded to bring the count back to twelve to correspond to the number of constellations.[44]

Bachya ben Asher refers to an opinion in the Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 75, that anyone who knows how to use astrology and fails to do so are like the people mentioned in Psalms 82:5, “they neither knew nor understood, but make themselves walk in darkness.” He states[45] that the Jewish people are not affected as a nation by astrological forces because God protects the nation; however, “the fate of individual Jews is subject to the influences of the horoscope.”

Angels and demons

Maimonides rejected the notion that demons exist,[46] defined angels as all things that do the will of God, including the elements of nature,[47] and held that “Satan” and “the angel of death” are metaphors for the powers that exist in nature. Nachmanides and his near contemporaries Rashi, Judah Halevi, Rabad of Posquieres, and many others disagreed. They believed in the existence of angels and demons, both of which are corporeal and can have powerful positive and negative impacts upon humans, but God told Jews not to seek their assistance.[48] Hasdai Crescas based his belief in demons in what he saw as explicit biblical verses, rabbinical statements in the Talmuds and midrashim, in the acceptance of the notion even by many non-Jews, and because he felt that they could be sensed by the five human senses.[49] God created angels on the fifth day of creation, according to Bachya ben Asher, who understand the biblical reference to flying creatures, not as birds, but angels.[50] Angels and demons, according to others, can be seen with special perspicuity of vision.[51]

“Satan,” according to Nachmanides is an angel that causes evil and the “angel of death” is an angel that causes death.[52] In his commentary to Leviticus 16:8, which I will discuss in my analysis of his understandings of Targum Onkelos, he states that God instructed Jews to bribe the chief demon every year on the holiday of Yom Hakippurim. Rashi[53] states that Noah rescued the demons from extinction in the flood by taking them aboard his ark.

Bachya ben Asher reflects Nachmanides view of angels when he writes[54] that even “good” angels can sin. “One example is found in Genesis 19:13 where the angels (sent to Abraham’s nephew Lot) who had been commanded to destroy Sodom and to save Lot describe themselves as if it were they who were destroying Sodom and not God.” Bachya states that God sometimes sends angels to fight for Israel.[55] Both Bachya and Nachmanides were convinced that four women—Lilith, Naamah, Igrat, and Machalat—became mothers of demons.[56]

Attitude to ancient and contemporary scholars

Nachmanides revered the authority of the ancients and wrote:[57] “We bow before them, and even when the reason for their words is not quite evident to us, we submit to them.” Nevertheless, he frequently treated the opinions of his near contemporaries ibn Ezra and Rashi with seeming disrespect.

He called ibn Ezra’s comments to Exodus 24:12 and 28:30, for example, “a comment of no value.” He stated more strongly in Leviticus 2:13 that “there is no sense to his words.” His treatment of Rashi was similar. The following are two examples. He said that Rashi’s explanation of Esther 31:10 “avails me nothing” and the commentary to Exodus 24:14 “is impossible.”

In contrast, he avoids such language when he mentions Maimonides, with whom he also disagreed, and refers to him respectfully as “the rabbi.” He quotes Targum Onkelos on many occasions, as we will see, and does so with near reverence, usually to support his own understanding of the biblical verse, although his understanding of the Targum, as we will come to understand, is problematical.

Dating Targum Onkelos

Since we will be discussing Nachmanides understandings of Targum Onkelos, it is interesting to note that the rabbi uniquely contended that Onkelos became a proselyte to Judaism because he was attracted to the study of mysticism. He dated the Targum to the time just after the Greek philosopher Aristotle, 384–322 BCE, and missing the date recorded in the Talmud of about 130 CE by about 400 years, and the date I established by comparing the Targum to the midrashim from about 400 CE, which is approximately 700 years.[58]

Mystical interpretations

Mysticism was important to Nachmanides. Therefore it is not surprising that he was the first person who contended that the Bible, Targum Onkelos, and the other Aramaic translations of the Bible contained mystical teachings. His first mystical explanation of a Targum was his analysis of a Fragmented Targum’s rendering of the Bible’s first word.[59] This Targum uses b’chachmah, “with wisdom,” in place of Scripture’s bereshit, “in the beginning” to teach that God created the world with wisdom. Nachmanides argues anachronistically that this early Bible translation is communicating the later mystical idea of the ten Sefirot (ten parts or aspects of God),[60] a concept that did not exist when the Fragmented Targum was composed. He argues that the Targum is referring to the first of the Sefirot in the one called chachmah. Thus God created the world with the sephira of chachmah. Nachmanides ignores the facts that Midrash Genesis Rabbah, from which the Targum’s translator drew material, uses the same word “wisdom” and refers to Proverbs 3:19, “The Lord founded the earth with wisdom,” and states that “wisdom” signifies the wisdom of the Torah. Since (1) all of the authors of the Targums frequently emphasized the importance of Torah study, (2) the translator drew his interpretation that the world was created with wisdom from the Midrash that he used consistently and this Midrash states that wisdom means Torah, and (3) Nachmanides’ mystical notion did not exist when the Targum was composed. We will see that this first problematic usage of a Targum is emblematic of most of his interpretations of Targum Onkelos.

 

[1]    Babylonian Talmud, Bava Batra 91a.

[2]    Nachmanides does not mention Maimonides’ view in his introduction to the tenth chapter of the tractate Sanhedrin, Chelek, that people who accept unnatural and illogical statements of the ancient sages literally instead of realizing that they are parables are pathetic and foolish people.

[3]    The tale is told in the Greek philosopher Plato’s Symposium as a humorous anecdote by the comic playwright Aristophanes, and the Midrash may have been drawn from this source. Nachmanides’ commentary is in Genesis 2:18.

[4]    Nachmanides, Disputation with Paulus, ed. Eisenstein, New York, 1928. B. Septimus, “Open rebuke and Concealed Love,” in I. Twersky, ed., Rabbi Moses Nahmanides (Ramban): Explorations in his Religious and Literary Virtuosity, Cambridge MA 1983) pages 15–22. Pablo used Nachmanides’ method where the latter tried to show the truth of mystical teachings.

[5]    Commenting upon Genesis 12:11, where Abram instructs his wife Sarai to state she is his sister, ibn Kaspi states that Aristotle contended that a lie is permissible under certain dire circumstances such as a threat of death.

[6]    The ram substituted as a sacrifice in place of Isaac whom his father Abraham was about to sacrifice in Genesis 22:13.

[7]    Even if one accepts the story as real, a simple answer is that Abraham did not observe a law that was not issued until long after his death. However, Nachmanides could not accept this solution.

[8]    J. Trachtenberg, infra, page 215.

[9]    See Daniel Sperber, Minhagei Yisrael, volume 6, pages 173–181.

[10]   1:217–218.

[11]   In contrast, Maimonides systematically emphasizing the importance of the intellect, stated that only the intellect exists after death. Introduction to chapter ten of Sanhedrin, Chelek.

[12]   Introduction to the Mishnah, Chelek.

[13]   C. B. Chavel, Ramban, His Life and Teachings, pages 473–495. See also the Babylonian Talmud, Rosh Hashanah 17a, which Nachmanides understood literally, and upon which he drew his belief.

[14]   C B. Chavel, ibid, pages 504–518.

[15]   C. B. Chavel, Ramban, Writings and Discourses, “the Gate of Reward,” volume 2, pages 454, 464, 467, and 438. For the rationalist’s view, see Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed 3:12. For a full treatment of the Jewish view toward metempsychosis, see D. B. Ruderman, A Heavenly Journey of Abraham ben Hananiah Yagel, U. of Pennsylvania Press, 1990, pages 199–202 and the many books cited by him.

[16]   Commentary to Genesis 38:8. See also his commentary to Genesis 4:1, 46:2, Leviticus 18:6, 26:11, and Deuteronomy 25:6, introduction to his commentary to Job and Job 33, and his discourse on Kohelet. The idea is also in Zohar 1,187.

[17]   Rabbenu Bachya, ad loc., questions Nachmanides’ restrictive attitude toward sex. Additionally, Chavel, Ramban, ad loc. English, page 255, note 298, states that since Nachmanides mentions ibn Ezra’s view in Leviticus 18:20, that there are three purposes for sex, it is possible that he agrees with ibn Ezra. Ibn Ezra states that the purpose of sex is to beget children, relieve the body of fluids, and for the satisfactions of one’s passion. Ibn Ezra considers the later purpose animalistic.

[18]   Commentary Genesis 2:17.

[19]   Commentary Genesis 4:3.

[20]   Commentary Genesis 5:2.

[21]   Commentary Genesis 31:35.

[22]   Leviticus 18:19. See also his The Law of the Eternal is Perfect, page 112.

[23]   Commentary to Genesis 2:21, referring to the Midrash Genesis Rabbah 17:6.

[24]   Commentary to Genesis 3:1.

[25]   Commentary to Genesis 12:11.

[26]   Responsa, edited by Y. Blau, Jerusalem, 5720: page 588.

[27]   Commentary to Genesis 35:22.

[28]   David Kimchi (also called Radak, 1160–1235) and Joseph Bechor Schor (born around 1080) share his view. They write that when Jacob heard what Reuben did, he separated from his wife, and this is hinted at in the end of the verse that states that Jacob had (only] twelve children.

[29]   This reflects the conclusion of the Babylonian Talmud, Yevamot 33b, Sotah 28a, and Ketubot 3b and 51b.

[30]   Nachmanides believed in free will. See also Nachmanides to 4:25, Leviticus 26:12 and Deuteronomy 30:1. Nachmanides states that the latter oracle did not yet occur, but that it will happen in the future.

[31]   Ibn Ezra’s view can be seen in his commentary to these chapters and in his general approach to prophecy. Similarly, the Maimonidean concept is apparent in his statements about prophecy and in his comments on these chapters, such as Guide of the Perplexed 3:36.

[32]   C. Chavel, Sefer HaMitzvoth l’haRambam in Hasagot haRamban, Mossad Harav Kook, 1981.

[33]   Nachmanides maintained that the patriarchs learnt the Torah by divine inspiration and the observance of the commands applied only in the land of Israel. Commentary to Genesis 26:5 and Leviticus 18:25. See J. Bonfils, Sophnath Pan’eah, ed. D. Herzog, Heidelberg 1930, volume 2; and ibn Shaprut, Sophnath Pan’eah (same title as Bonfils), Ms. Oxford-Bodley Opp. Add. 40–107 (Neubauer 2350), beginning on 53b.

[34]   Commentary to Genesis 28:21.

[35]   Translation of C. B. Chavel, Ramban, Commentary on the Torah, Shilo Publishing House, New York, 1971, volume 1, (Genesis), page 359.

[36]   Commentary to Leviticus 18:25, Deuteronomy 11:18 and Sermon on the Words of Kohelet.

[37]   Commentary to Genesis 48:22, see also Genesis 15:18.

[38]   See the notes in the next two sections.

[39]   See 2:7, 2:67, and 2:237.

[40]   Bachya ben Asher to Genesis 5:23 states that the Bible said that Enoch “walked with God” because although he recognized the power of astrology, he also realized the source of this power is God.

[41]   Commentary, Deuteronomy 18:9, 21:12, 13.

[42]   As did ibn Ezra and most other sages of Nachmanides’ generation. In contrast, see Maimonides’ Letter on Astrology, written in 1194, about when Nachmanides was born, and an analysis in R. Lerner, Maimonides’ Empire of Light, University of Chicago Press, 2000, pages 56–64 and 178–87.

[43]   In Deuteronomy 33:6

[44]   Compare Numbers R. 14–29.

[45]   Commentary to Genesis 15:5.

[46]   Guide of the Perplexed 3:46.

[47]   Guide of the Perplexed 2:6 and 7.

[48]   Leviticus 17:7.

[49]   Creskas, Or ha-Shem, Jerusalem, 1990, 4:6.

[50]   Commenta4ry to Genesis 1:21.

[51]   Nachmanides Genesis 18:1; Y. Halevi, Kuzari 3, 11; J. Trachtenberg, Jewish Magic and Superstition, NY, 1939, page 73. I. Twersky, “Rabad of Posquieres,” JPS, 1980. Nachmanides discusses Maimonides contrary view in Genesis 18:1

[52]   See Nachmanides’ commentary to the book of Job and C. B. Chavel, Kitvei Haramban, pages 24–25 and 381.

[53]   Genesis 9:10.

[54]   Commentary on Genesis 3:6.

[55]   Commentary on Genesis 6:6.

[56]   Commentary on Genesis 4:22.

[57]   Asifat Zekenim to Ketubot.

[58]   Chavel, Writings of Nachmanides, The Law of the Eternal is Perfect, pages 75–76. I. Drazin, ”Dating Targum Onkelos by means of the Tannaitic Midrashim, JJS, Autumn 1999.

[59]   There are several different Fragmented Targums. The Fragmented Targums are Aramaic version of the Pentateuch that exists in fragments only, and scholars are uncertain whether they were originally written in this fashion on only certain verses, or whether they were translations of the entire Pentateuch and only fragments remain.

[60]   Y. Leibowitz, Seven Years of Discourses on the Weekly Torah Reading (Hebrew) Israel, 2000, page 11, calls the mystical interpretations an insertion of pluralism into Jewish monotheism.

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