¿Quién fue Nahmanides?
Born in Girona (Spain) in 1194, Ramban – the Hebrew acronym for Rabbi Moshe ben Nahman – was one of the outstanding Talmudical scholars, Bible commentators, and Halachic decisors of his generation. He led an active and interesting life, traveling with other rabbis on religious missions through North Africa, the Middle East and even Christian Spain.
Nahmanides’ fame, however, rests on his brilliant rabbinical works and his profound insight into the mystical and medieval aspects of Judaism. In the twelfth century, most rabbis favored the rationalistic Aristotelian approach to religion that was prevalent throughout the Arab world. Nahmanides espoused an opposing Neoplatonic view, stressing the mystical aspects of Judaism.
His writings on this subject have included invaluable comments on the biblical books of Genesis, Exodus and Leviticus. Nahmanides once wrote a treatise entitled The Gate of Heaven, and though this work was lost, we know from references in other of his works that it described in detail whatwardens” or “disciples” did in the abode of God to make His Throne sit firm. (In an infantry regiment, the right hand battalion would seize the right hand standard of the King or General, while the left hand battalion would seize the left hand standard. It was their duty to protect the King or General, sometimes at the cost of their lives.)
Nahmanides identified the “wardens” or “disciples” with the lower levels of the Sefirot (divine emanations), the sefira Da’at being interpreted as “The Knowledge (of God)” and the sefira Yesod being interpreted as “The Foundation”.
The mystical cosmology of Nahmanides rests upon an ancient tradition ascribed to Rabbi Ishmael, a second century Tanna. This tradition claims that when Rabbi Ishmael examined the first verse of the biblical book of Ezekiel – “The heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God” – he discovered three hundred and sixty-five combinations of the Hebrew letters, the very same value of the 360 days of the lunar year plus an additional five days of pregnant potential. Rabbi Ishmael also taught that there were 365 negative commandments or prohibitions, corresponding to the positive commandments or mitzvot and the five pregnant days (the annual holidays of Rosh Hanukah, Tu Bishvat, the Fast of Esther and Lag ba’Omer and Tisha be-Av).
The biblical book of Ezekiel was the inspiration for much of Rabbi Ishmael’s speculative mysticism, and Nahmanides claimed that the visions of Ezekiel were replicas of the mystical experiences of Rabbi Ishmael. Ezekiel professed to have seen the Merkavah, a divine “Chariot”, with the Throne of God as its canopy. He described, in great detail, the four sacred beasts that accompanied the Divine Chariot – the Holy Ox, the Lion of Judah, the Winged Man (igulim, ayilim), and the Eagle with two faces (thepelican?).
Ezekiel’s Chariot, Nahmanides assures us, is a reality, and is, in fact, the metaphysical structure of the Universe: the metaphysical universe of the divine, or Kelipot – the quartet of spiritual worlds and the four parts of the Ten Sefirot; and the metaphysical universe of our physical reality, or the spiritual components of the four parts of our physical world of the four elements: fire, air, water, earth (the “beasts” of the four quarters of the earth, North, South, East and West). In the Kabala, these four elements are symbolic of the spirits of the four elements, and the four “maps” of the four elements have their root in their corresponding spiritual element.
Ramban wrote that he interpreted the biblical verse “You only have I selected of all the families of the earth” (Amos 3:2) to mean that both Evil and Good are connected to God. Therefore, the “Good,” which is the part of us that is always struggling to choose moral goodness over evil, is perfect and at one with God. (If a creature cannot be the subject of an evil impulse, the creature is perfect; i.e., God is perfect.) Because there is no Evil without Good, the Evil that comes from God is called the Order of Evil, which is the Order of our actions in the World of Action. But there is another kind of Evil, called the World of Evil, which is considered to be absolutely null and void because it is outside of God’sKnowledge.
This World of Evil is also called the World of Sitra Ahra or the Other Side.