A Treasury of Jewish Letters: Letters from the Famous and the Humble - Vol. 1

By Franz Kobler | Go to book overview

33
The Letters of Moses Nahmanides to his sons from the Holy Land

MOSES, son of Nahman, commonly called Nahmanides or Nahmani, born in Gerona about the year 1195, was one of the chief ornaments of Jewish learning in the thirteenth century. In the words of Solomon Schechter, Nahmanides represented Judaism from the side of emotion and feeling, as Maimonides did from the side of reason and logic. His knowledge of early mystical works and his own mystical disposition made him a forerunner of the mystics and cabbalists, who were destined to become a dominating spiritual power in the centuries to come.

Nahmanides spent the greatest part of his life in Christian Spain. In 1263 he distinguished himself by upholding the cause of Judaism in a disputation with the Jewish apostate Pablo Christiani, in the presence of the king and court of Aragon. His victory was almost too complete, as it drew on him the enmity of the Dominicans, through whose machinations he was condemned to exile. He migrated to Palestine, where he arrived after having passed his seventieth year. Here he completed his greatest work, the Commentary on the Pentateuch, and embarked upon an historic enterprise: to revive the nearly extinguished Jewish life in the Holy Land. Here he also wrote the three letters to his children which are quoted below. The first is a moving description of the state of Palestine as it had been left by the Mongolian invasion a few years before ( 1260). The other two are paternal Letters of Admonition, one apparently to his son Solomon (who seems to have been in the service of the King of Castile), laying particular stress on chastity, and the other to his son Nahman, inculcating the virtue of humility.


(A) MOSES NAHMANIDES TO HIS SON NAHMAN

'Even in this destruction it is a blessed land'

[ Jerusalem, 1267 ]

May the Lord bless thee, my son Nahman, and mayst thou see the good of Jerusalem. Yea, mayst thou see thy children's

-225-

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