||Responsa by R. Moses b. Nahman, (Nahamani or RaMBaN - an acronym of Rabbi Moses Ben Nahman; 1194–1270), Spanish rabbi and scholar and one of the leading authors of talmudic literature in the Middle Ages, philosopher, kabbalist, biblical exegete, poet, and physician. RaMBaN wrote his commentary on the Torah in his old age. He composed the main part in Spain, but added to it after his arrival in Erez Israel. In the introduction he states the purpose of his commentary: "To appease the minds of the students, weary through exile and trouble, when they read the portion on Sabbaths and festivals." It is an extensive commentary, both on the narrative and legislative part of the Bible. Unlike his most noted predecessors, Rashi and Abraham ibn Ezra, who devoted themselves chiefly to the elucidation of individual words and verses, Nahmanides, though he followed strict philological procedure when he deemed it necessary to establish the exact meaning of a word, concerns himself mainly with the sequence of the biblical passages and with the deeper meaning of the Bible's laws and narrative. He makes frequent use of the aggadic and halakhic interpretations of the talmudic and midrashic sages, but whereas Rashi quotes these without expressing his own opinions, Nahmanides dwells on them at length, analyzes them critically, develops their ideas, and probes their compatibility with the biblical text.
The commentary of Nahmanides is more than a mere commentary. It reflects his views on G-d, the Torah, Israel, and the world. The Torah is the word of G-d and is the source of all knowledge. The narratives of the Bible are not simple records of the past, but are portents of the future. The account of the six days of creation contains prophecies regarding the most important events of the succeeding 6,000 years, while the Sabbath foreshadows the seventh millennium which will be the Day of the Lord, and the accounts told about the patriarchs foreshadow the history of the Jewish people as a whole. Nahmanides does not hesitate to criticize the patriarchs when their actions seem to him injustifiable. According to him (Gen. 12:11), Abraham "unintentionally committed a great sin," when, on coming to Egypt, he said out of fear for his life that his wife Sarah was his sister, for in this way he exposed her to moral corruption; rather, he should have had faith that G-d would save both him and his wife. RaMBaN demonstrates great psychological insight when describing the behavior of biblical personalities. In the story of Joseph the Bible relates that "he fell on his neck and wept on his neck for a while" (Gen. 46:29). The question arises: Who wept? Jacob or Joseph? it is obvious who is more likely to weep at such a time, RaMBaN says, the old father who finds his son alive after he had mourned for him as lost, not the son who has risen to become a king. RaMBaN explains the laws in the light of halakhic tradition. He maintains that there is a reason for every commandment. The commandments are all for the good of man, either to keep from him something that is hurtful, to remove from him evil beliefs and habits, to teach him mercy and goodness, or to make him remember the miracles of the Lord and to know him. He explains some of the dietary laws in terms of health regulations; others he interprets as seeking to keep us from eating foods that dull the mind and harden the heart.
RaMBaN very often quotes Rashi and Abraham ibn Ezra. Despite his great reverence for Rashi, he polemicizes with him. At times he praises Ibn Ezra, but attacks him sharply for those of his views which run counter to tradition. He holds Maimonides in high esteem, but rejects some of the reasons given in the Guide of the Perplexed for the commandments. He regards (Gen. 18:1) Maimonides' view that the visit of the angels to Abraham was a mere vision to contradict the Bible. RaMBaN was the first commentator to introduce Kabbalah into his commentary. The commentary, written in a lucid style, contains many a word of encouragement and solace to the Jewish people. At the end of the Song of Ha'azinu (Deut. 32), Nahmanides writes: "And behold there is nothing conditional in this song. It is a charter testifying that we shall have to suffer heavily for our sins, but that, nevertheless, G-d will not destroy us, being reconciled to us (though we shall have no merits) and forgiving our sins for his name's sake alone.... And so our rabbis said: 'Great is the song, embracing as it does the present, the past (of Israel) and the future, this world and the world to come....' And if this song were the composition of a mere astrologer we should be constrained to believe in it, considering that all its words were fulfilled. How much more have we to hope with all our hearts and to trust to the word of G-d, through the mouth of his prophet Moses, the faithful in all his house, like unto whom there was none, whether before him or after him." RaMBaN's commentary became very popular and has been widely drawn upon by later commentators. Supercommentaries have been written upon it and kabbalistic treatises have been composed on its kabbalistic allusions. R. Bahya b. Asher and R. Jacob b. Asher incorporated large parts of it into their commentaries. The commentary was printed for the first time in Rome prior to 1480.