Living Legacy: The Ramban

Living Legacy: The Ramban

Yehuda Alter 

The 11th of Nissan marks the yohrtzeit of the holy Ramban, one of the most famous Rishonim, a posek, a chacham, a mekubal, a doctor, and one of the most important elucidators of the Torah. 

He was born around the year 1190 in the city of Gerona, Spain. In his youth, he learned by earlier Rishonim, and it was from them that he learned the Torah of the Ba’alei Tosafos. He specifically mentions his Rebbi, Rav Yehuda Ben Yakar, many times in his peirushim. Another Rebbi was Rav Nosson Ben Meir of Provence, France, whom he calls “Mori.”

He was a nephew of Rabbeinu Yona of Gerona, and through him he was in correspondence with the Rishonim of France. 

Among his illustrious students was the Rashba, who testified (in Teshuvos Harashba) that the Ramban was a physician by trade, and thus we find many instances where the Ramban opines on halachic matters from a medical perspective. 

In 1263, King Jaime of Aragon (Spain) forced the Ramban to take part in a debate against a Dominican friar on the truth of Yiddishkeit and its beliefs. 

The Ramban arrived in Eretz Yisroel in the year 1267, apparently through the port of Akko. He wrote later about the difficulty of going up to Eretz Yisroel, an undertaking that he nevertheless undertook due to his great love for the land, and “for wishing to be in the lap of his mother.” 

In 1972, the personal stamp of the Ramban was found in the port city of Akko, and it is currently on display at the Israel Museum. 

From Akko, he went to Yerushalayim. There he built a shul, and in his writings he described the difficult state of the Jewish People in the holy city. 

In addition to his famous seforim of chiddushim on Torah and on Gemara, the Ramban wrote an Iggeres, filled with words of mussar to his son. There are many more seforim from the Ramban on a wide range of topics and subjects. He was also a great posek. 

After the year 1270, there are no more writings from the Ramban, and it is presumed that he was niftar in that year. His resting place remains a mystery, though he did write to his son that he intends to purchase a plot in Chevron. Others, however, claim that he was interred in a cave alongside Rabi Ovadia MiBartenura. 

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