1772-1811. Ukrainian chassidic rabbi. Nachman was descended from ISRAEL BEN-ELIEZER BA'ALSHEM TOV, the founder of Chassidism. A mystic and ascetic, he practised prolonged fasts, followed by days in which he isolated himself in meditation in forests and fields. He was married to the daughter of a rabbi when thirteen years old, and from the age of eighteen he and his growing family lived in great poverty. In 1798, practically penniless, he set out alone for the Holy Land, where he spent most of his time with mystical scholars in Tiberias and Safad. Family responsibilities called him home and in 1802 he settled in Bratislav, Podolia. After suffering from tuberculosis for over three years, he died in the town of Uman.
An intuitive man, Nachman elevated instinctive belief above scholarship; he despised philosophers and mistrusted physicians. His Chassidim practised confession of their sins before him. Some other chassidic groups were strongly opposed to his teachings, even accusing him of following the doctrines of SHABBETAI ZEVI.
Nachman was a gifted story-teller. His largely allegorical Yiddish narratives have been printed in Yiddish and Hebrew in many editions, and were disseminated in Western Europe through the versions of Martin BUBER.
1194-1270. Spanish rabbi and scholar, Nachmanides, whose Spanish name was Bonastrug da Porta, directed a rabbinical academy in his home town of Gerona and may have been chief rabbi of Catalonia from 1264. He became recognized as the leader of Spanish Jewry and the outstanding Jewish scholar of his day.
In 1263, on the command of King James I of Aragon, Nachmanides participated in a public debate in Barcelona on the merits of Judaism and Christianity. The only Jew opposing a group of 250 Christians, Nachmanides defended his thesis so well that the king declared him the victor and presented him with a prize of 300 dinars. Urged to do so by the bishop of Gerona, Nachmanides summed up his arguments in a book, Sefer ha-Vikuach (The Book of the Debate'). Yet the Dominican friars who had organized the dispute brought Nachmanides to trial for blasphemy. His right to free speech in the disputation was upheld by the king, so the angry Dominicans turned to the pope. When the latter directed the king to punish Nachmanides, the Jewish scholar fled to Palestine, arriving at the port of Acre in the summer of 1267. Here too his spiritual authority was acknowledged. His place of burial is unknown.
About fifty of his many works are still extant, and show his great talmudic learning, his knowledge of the newly emerging mystical science (the Cabbala) and his grasp of general sciences. His writings on the interpretation of the Torah and on the Cabbala strongly influenced succeeding scholars and Cabbalists.
1888-1960. Historian and Zionist.