The Ramban at the end of Bo is a classic work on Jewish philosophy and probably the most quoted Ramban in Chumash. It’s well worth seeing inside. Here’s a summary:
Reason for the Plagues
The Ramban says that from the time of Enosh there were three types of heretics: 1) Those that didn’t believe in G-d at all; 2) Those that believed in a G-d, but didn’t believe He knew what was happening in the world; 3) Those that believed in G-d’s knowledge, but didn’t believe that He oversees the world or that there is reward and punishments.
By favoring the Jews and altering nature through the plagues, the falsity of the heretical views became clear to all. The supernatural wonders indicate the world has a G-d who created it, knows all, oversees all and is all powerful. And when that wonder is publicly declared beforehand through a prophet, the truth of prophecy is made clear as well, namely that G-d will speak to a person and reveal His secrets to His servants, the prophets, and with acknowledgement of this principle the entire Torah is sustained. (The Ramban brings down a number of pesukim supporting this.)
Reason for so many Mitzvos regarding the Exodus
Now, because G-d does not perform a sign or wonder in every generation in sight of every evil person and disbeliever, He commanded that we should have constant reminders and signs of what we saw in Egypt and we should transmit it to our children thoughout the generations. G-d was stringent in this matter as we see from the strict penalties regarding eating Chometz on Pesach and neglecting the Pesach offering. Other mitzvos regarding the Exodus are tefillin, mezuzos, remembering the Exodus in the morning and evening, Succos.
There are also many other commandments that serve as a reminder of the Exodus (Shabbos, the festivals, redemption of the firstborn,…). And all these commandments serve as a testimony for us through the generations regarding the wonders performed in Egypt, that they not be forgotten and there will be no argument for a heretic to deny faith in G-d.
The Reason behind Mitzvos in General
When one does a simple mitzvah like mezuzah and thinks about its importance, he has already acknowledged G-d’s creation of the world, G-d’s knowledge and supervision of the world’s affairs, the truth of prophecy and all the foundations of Torah. In addition he has acknowledged G-d’s kindness towards those that perform His will, for He took us from bondage to freedom in great honor in the merit of our forefathers.
That is why Chazal say, be careful in performing a minor commandment as a major one, for all of them are major and beloved since through them a person is constantly acknowledging his G-d. For the objective of all the commandments is that we should believe in G-d and acknowledge to Him that He created us.
Purpose of Creation
In fact this is the purpose of creation itself, for we have no other explanation of creation. And G-d has no desire, except that man should know and acknowledge the G-d that created him. And the purpose of raising our voices in prayer and the purpose of Shuls and the merit of communal prayer is that people should have a place where they can gather and acknowledge that G-d created them and caused them to be and they can publicize this and declare before Him, “We are your creations”.
This is what the sages meant when they explained “And they shall call out mightily to G-d” as from here you learn that prayer requires a loud voice for boldness can overcome evil.
Everything is a Sign of Hashem
Through recalling the great revealed signs of Hashem of the Exodus, a person acknowledges the hidden signs of everyday life which are the foundation of the entire Torah. For a person has no share in the Torah of Moshe unless he believes that all our affairs and experiences are signs from Hashem, that there is no independent force of nature regarding either the community or the individual.
Reward and Punishment
Rather if one observes the commandments his reward will bring him success and if he transgresses them his punishment will destroy him. Hidden signs of Hashem can be more clearly recognized as regards the affairs of a community as in the predictions in the Torah in the matter of the blessings and the curses as it says – And the nations will say, “For what reason did Hashem do so to this land…?” And they will say, “Because they forsook the covenant of Hashem, the G-d of their forefathers”. This matter will become known to the nations, that this is from G-d as their (the Jews) punishment. And it is stated regarding the fulfillment of the commandments, “Then all the people of the earth will see that the Name of Hashem is proclaimed over you, and they will revere you.”
First published in January, 2008. Last 2 paragraphs updated January 2012
this IS the most Quoted… the topic hits in many other areas of judaism. Nature. Punishment. Just so many areas.
I recently looked into this Ramban and I have to contend with at least one of your translations/conclusions. It does not seem to me that the Ramban is saying there’s no such things as nature. Look up the other Ramban’s that are cross referenced in many editions of the Ramban and you’ll see this is not so simple. It seems to me the Ramban is saying there’s no such thing as nature for Jews, both on the national level and on the individual level. I saw the Nesivos Shalom in Parshas Beshalach agrees with this understanding of the Ramban. I believe the NS was on “Bsoch Hayam Bayabasha” in the Shiras HaYam.
Did anyone else look into this? I’m curious to hear what others think. To say that the Ramban does not believe in Teva/Nature certainly needs elaboration!
By the way, I did ask people in my Shul and at my Shabbos table what they thought the most famous Ramban was. Most couldn’t think of one. Some said Kiddoshim Tiheu and some said the Ramban at the end of Bo. The Ramban on Korbanos was also mentioned.
One friend suggested even if it’s not the most famous, it’s certainly one of the most important.
Only yours, Bob ;)
Does this make these the most famous comments?
A thoroughly compelling response! ;-D
Google “Most Famous Ramban” with the quotes and see what you get.
Well it seems that most of the results agree with our conclusion.
So what if the Google results are aggregators that actually point to this article from 2 years ago.
So if it wasn’t the Most Famous Ramban before, it certainly is now :-)
But if you want to change the language to “One of the Most Famous Rambans”, I’m good with that, but we can’t change the title because it will mess up the Google results :-)
Okay, I’ll pick a fight here ;-), since I commented two years ago. How do we know this is ‘the most famous Ramban’? Personally, I always thought that was the Ramban at the beginning of K’doshim T’hiyu.
Just agitating here…
For those interested, all five volumes of the Machon Yerushalayim Ramban on Chumash are complete and available in most good sefarim/Judaica stores.
As a folllow up, for those interested, Machon Yerushalayim is in the process of producing a new all Hebrew edition of Ramban and the Nosei Kelim to Ramban. IIRC, Breishis and Shmos have been completed.
FWIW, the Chumash Toras Chaim includes the Mosad HaRav Kook editions of Rashi and Ramban. The above quote from the Ramban is well known but for those interested in a study of Ramban’s POV and whether the above quote is representative of the complexity of Ramban’s derech, I would suggest that they read R D David Berger’s article on miracles,the natural order and Ramban that can be found at zootorah.com.books/Miracles/Nachmanides.pdf.
Thanks, Mark. That makes more sense to me.
Shabbat Shalom, all!
I like to read as many English translations of a text as possible. Some translators pick up the nuances better, some work from more accurate editions of the text, some write better, some expand more as a Targum would, and so on.
R’ Mordechai – The Art Scroll has the Chumash, Rashi and the Ramban all in Hebrew, whereas the English Chavell doesn’t.
In addition the translation follows the Art Scroll style of bolding words that appear in the original text and using normal case for explanatory words.
There is also a lot more prefacing with comments explaining the context that the Ramban is addressing.
Re: the new Ramban, a silly question. Was this needed? I know that Rav Chavell (sp?) z”l had translated the Ramban after he published the definitive critical edition in the original. I never used the English edition, so I am not directly familiar with it. What does the Artscroll translation improve upon?
Good post, Mark. That is, indeed, a very important Ramban.
According to our sources, after our final, complete redemption (soon, we pray), will the celebration of its events be
1. folded into our celebration of Pesach?
2. a new holiday in addition to Pesach?
Since the Torah is eternal, I can’t see how Pesach could just be replaced, so I left that option out. Yes, we know that in some sense only Purim will survive, but in what sense?
If anyone can produce and explain the relevant quotes, that would be great.