Ramban Bereshit

Underacknowledged Ways to Shape the Future

by R. Gidon Rothstein Since this is the last parsha in Bereshit, it seems fitting that Ramban takes one more opportunity to say that what happens to our forefathers prefigures our national history. On 47;28, he relates Ya’akov’s actions in going down to Egypt to the exile we currently endure (and which in turn had been set in motion by Avraham’s going down ...

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What We Tell and What We Don’t

by R. Gidon Rothstein Stories We Tell Parshat Vayigash opens with Yehudah arguing with/begging Yosef to let Binyamin return to Ya’akov. He doesn’t simply make that request, he retells the history of the current encounter with Yosef, a narrative Ramban considers superfluous, since Yosef had lived it as well. Bereshit Rabbah 93;6 said this was Yehudah’s way of rebuking Yosef for threatening ...

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From Par’oh’s Dream to Making Yosef’s Come True

by R. Gidon Rothstein Pharaoh’s Dream For all the detail in Yosef’s interpretation of Par’oh’s dream, Ramban lays out correspondences between the dream and the meaning that are not made explicit in the Torah. On 41;2, Par’oh sees the fat cows coming out of the Nile, which Ramban says was because that was the source of Egypt’s water and plenty. ...

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Some of the Complications of Family

by R. Gidon Rothstein Full Sons, Full Wives? Early on in Vayeshev, 37;2, the verse describes Yosef as a na’ar, a boy, with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah. Ramban says Ya’akov tasked these sons with watching the younger Yosef, who repaid the favor by talebearing on them (Rashi had said he told on the sons of Leah, but Ramban thinks that would ...

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Stepping Right, Stepping Wrong

by R. Gidon Rothstein Ramban to Vayishlach: Stepping Right, Stepping Wrong Ramban opens his commentary on Vayishlach (32;4) by telling us it’s meant to inform us that Hashem saved his servant from a stronger foe (Esav), and to teach us that Ya’akov did not rely on his righteousness, but made all the attempts he could to save himself. His specific strategies are ...

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When the Story Isn’t Fully Told

by R. Gidon Rothstein How Hashem Runs the World There are themes to Ramban, ideas that crop up repeatedly. I try to keep my interests and preferences out of these selections, so that I not fit Ramban into the Procrustean sarcophagus (as R. Lichtenstein zt”l used to say) of my own worldview. But Ramban does apply his themes in unexpected places, and ...

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Finding Our Way to Hashem, Or Not

by R. Gidon Rothstein Seeking Hashem’s Truth In the beginning of the parsha, Yitzchak and Rivkah struggle with infertility. When she finally becomes pregnant, the fetuses move around inside her, causing her enough trouble that in 25;22, va-telech lidrosh et Hashem, she went to inquire of Hashem. Rashi thought she went to the Beit Midrash of Shem [for Rashi, the place to ...

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The Blessings of a Good Life

by R. Gidon Rothstein Last week, I broke one of my rules for these posts, by focusing on only one part of the parsha. I’ve also noticed that I’ve been favoring early parts of the parsha (for the same reason I ended up writing a PhD dissertation on fifteenth century texts—I meant to get to the nineteenth, but found too much good material ...

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The Incident at Sodom and Immigration Policy

by R. Gidon Rothstein When I spent a year reviewing five comments of Rashi’s on each parsha, I strove to spread the selected comments from throughout the parsha. That’s my overall intent in studying Ramban as well, except that he often has lengthy comments so rich that they take up all our space. This week, for example, comments of his on what ...

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