Friday, 23 October 2009

The Ramban and Israel

Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman Girondi, known as Nachmanides or the Ramban, lived most of his life in Girondi, Spain. He was one of a great rabbis who wrote a commentary on the Chumash and was also well versed in Kabbalah. The Ramban was also a medical doctor and a philosopher.

When the Ramban was 73 years old, he was asked to enter into a debate with a priest which was judged by the King. The King ruled in favour of the answers given by the Ramban, a decision that made the church very angry, resulting in the Ramban's life being at risk. Some advised that he leave and go to Toledo. The Ramban, however, decided to follow his heart and head for the Land of Israel.

He arrived initially to the port of Acco in the North of Israel. He was warmly received by the Jews of Acco but still needed to move on a bit. For the Ramban, he could not come to Israel and not go to Yerushalayim. So, despite the danger of the time, he journeyed from Acco to Yerushalayim. A trip that today will take a few hours by train, in those days took 2 weeks under much danger to ones life and property.

After 2 weeks, the Ramban arrived in Yerushalayim and, asking where the Jews were to be found, discovered two brothers living in the Old City. These were the only Jews who lived in the Old City of Yerushalayim at the time. They were joined on Shabbat by enough other Jews to make up a minyan for the prayers on Shabbat.

The Ramban found kind hospitality with these two brothers. However, still the Ramban was not satisfied. The Old City needed a Synagogue. So the Ramban found a building that was in a state of ruins and together with the brothers, set about cleaning it up to become what today is the Ramban Shul. The Ramban taught a regular shiur in this Synagogue. After some time, there was great excitement as an actual Torah was brought into the new Synagogue. So it is that the Ramban began an important trend and teaching. When returning to the land of Israel. It is not enough to just land at the shore and settle wherever you settle.

Our goal must always be two fold, Yerushalayim and being a part of rebuilding the country, for Torah, unity amongst Jews and mitzvos.

The Ramban was not able to remain in Yerushalayim, as a letter informing him of the passing of the Chief Rabbi of Acco called him back to be the leader of the Jewish Community in Acco.

The Ramban died at the age of 76 in 1270 in Eretz Yisrael. From what I have read, no one knows where he is burried. If anyone reads this post and does know, please do send a message to let us know where the grave of the Ramban is situated.

Two teachings from the Ramban regarding Israel include: "The Land of Israel is a Land that G-d's Eyes are constantly on, meaning to see what it needs and to determine how it will be judged. This was a great secret for this Land of Israel is sought by all, and it is all, and all the lands gain their sustenance from it" (Commentary on Devarim 11:12)

"It was the ideal of living in Eretz Yisrael that took me out of my house, out of my country and caused me to travel from my place. I left my house; I repudiated my inheritance, I was like a raven to my sons, cruel to my daughters. Why? Because I wished to travel to the bossom of my mother, Eretz Yisrael."

It is told that when he was recommended to go to Toledo, the Ramban had responded that he desired to travel to Israel for G-d and therefore put his trust in Him that He would lead his footsteps.

The Ramban left important and invaluable teachings for us to follow in his commentary on the Chumash and other work. However, the last few years of his life provide an example of how a Jew should think towards the Land Of Israel and what his role here should be.

May we enjoy and merit to dance with the Ramban, himself (ie after Techiyas HaMasim) with the coming of Moshiach in the re-built Yerushalayim.

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