Nachmanides’ Disputation (1263)

Nachmanides’ Disputation (1263)

By order of King James I of Aragon (Spain), Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (1194-1270), a philosopher, poet, physician, and Kabbalist, known by the acronym Ramban, author of commentaries on the Torah, Talmud, and Maimonides’ Sefer HaMitzvot, was compelled to participate in a public debate, held in the king’s presence, against the Jewish convert to Christianity, Pablo Christiani. His brilliant defence of Judaism and refutations of Christianity’s claims served as the basis of many such future disputations through the generations.

21st-century artistic depiction of Nachmanides in Acre, Israel

Because his victory was an insult to the king’s religion, Nachmanides was forced to flee Spain. He came to settle at Acre in Palestine. where he reorganized the Jewish settlement and, although advanced in age, began his most celebrated scholarly work, a commentary on the Pentateuch.

Naḥmanides’ Halakhic works, including numerous monographs on specific points of law, are considered classics of rabbinical literature. His commentaries on the Talmud greatly influenced the course of subsequent Jewish rabbinical scholarship in Spain.

Later he went to Jerusalem, where he found just a handful of Jewish families living in abject poverty, and revived the Jewish community there too. The synagogue he built in the Old City is in use today, and is perhaps the oldest standing synagogue in the world.

Some use his Catalan name Bonastruc ça Porta (also spelled Sa Porta, Saporta or de Porta). He is also named after his birthplace Mosjé ben Nachman Gerondi, also referred to by the acronym Ramban.