Updated: Jul 14, 2022
Rabbi Moshe Ben Nachman (also known as the Ramban or “Nachmanides”) stands as one of the most cherished commentators in the Torah. His explanations are not only original and innovative, but also filled with Kabbalistic terms and figures, leaving no room for doubt that he indeed was a master Kabbalist. The Ramban’s contribution to Jewish life cannot be overstated, as he acted not only as a leader, but also as a physician and posek (law authority).
While his contemporary Rambam (R’ Moshe Ben Maimon) was not known for his Kabbalah knowledge (though some argue that this is wrong), the Rambanwrote extensively on it. However, it is known in Kabbalistic circles that the Ramban’s Kabbalah is very difficult to understand, as it pertains to a system that came before the revelation of the Arizal. In fact, very few people study it and usually only after satiating themselves with the system the Arizal brought. Nevertheless, none less than Rav Chaim Vital, prime student of the Arizal, writes in his introduction to EtzChaim that the Ramban’s Kabbalah indeed was legitand can be trusted.
Mystical Teachings for the Ages
One of the most powerful contributions of the Ramban is in fact his “Letter for the Ages”, a long letter he wrote to his son concerning Avodat (service of) Hashem. In it, he explains how a person should conduct himself in order to merit true elevation. A few of the teachings include to never raise one’s voice and always consider other people greater than oneself, no matter what. The Ramban charged his son with reading the letter every week as it contains the most fundamental teachings for becoming a vehicle for the Shekhina.
He also made a promise that whoever reads the letter will merit to have his wishes come true. Presumably, this does not mean that any wish will be granted just like that, but that when a person internalizes the teachings in it, he will reach a spiritual position where he will become worthy of having his wishes come true.
In fact, as know, the more one purifies oneself to accept criticism and eliminate anger and pride (as the Ramban writes), the closer he will be to Hashem and the more power in prayers he will wield. This is a Kabbalistic secret that has many ramifications and we covered a lot of it in many articles.
The Holy Epistle
One of the least known works of the Ramban is called “Iggeret HaKodesh” (the holy epistle [or “letter]), in which he presents a more positive outlook to sexuality than the Rambam in “Guide to the Perplexed”. The letter touches on many deep Kabbalistic ideas surrounding the intimate union between husband and wife. This is one of the greatest secrets of Creation, and transcends
While we don’t have enough space to write a lot, one of the most innovative ideas in it is that the marital union is a powerful vehicle for transcendence. This idea has unfortunately been forgotten by many groups but it’s central to understanding more Hashem’s involvement in Creation. Based on many places in the Talmud and the Zohar, the Ramban explains that how a couple sanctifies itself before relations has tremendous bearing on what kind of soul will come down as a result. This is not an ironclad rule, because at times many great Tzadikim (like Yaakov Avinu or King Chizkiyahu) have children that are evil to an extreme. In fact, in Sha’ar HaGilgulim we learn that even the children of Moshe Rabbenu’s sons and grandsons were also lacking in many areas.
Following this reasoning, the Ben Ish Chai also writes in many of his works that before marital relations a couple should do Teshuva and pray that Hashem should help the couple attain the requisite mental framework to do the act with holiness and that they shouldn’t do it merely for pleasure. However, in a very interesting turn, the prayer he wrote for men also asks Hashem that the husband feels satiated with the act and that the soul coming down should be pure and good.
The Ramban further teaches us about the components of the holy marital act which are purifying one’s mind, elevating one’s thoughts, devoted focusand drawing down of shefa (flow of blessings). In the writings of the Arizal, we also find that the ideal time for bringing the holiest soul one can is on Shabbat, and after the halachic midnight.
We can all connect with the great Ramban by studying his works and deriving inspiration from him!
May his memory be for a blessing.