The greatest work of Nachmanides was his “Commentary on the Pentateuch.” He reveals his whole character in it. In composing his work he had, he tells us, three motives, an intellectual, a theological, and an emotional motive. First, he would “satisfy the minds of students, and draw their heart out by a critical examination of the text.” His exposition is, indeed, based on true philology and on deep and original study of the Bible. His style is peculiarly attractive, and had he been content to offer a plain commentary, his work would have ranked among the best. But he had other desires besides giving a simple explanation of the text. He had, secondly, a theological motive, to justify God and discover in the words of Scripture a hidden meaning. In the Biblical narratives, Nachmanides sees types of the history of man. Thus, the account of the six days of creation is turned into a prophecy of the events which would occur during the next six thousand years, and the seventh day is a type of the millennium. So, too, Nachmanides finds symbolical senses in Scriptural texts, “for, in the Torah, are hidden every wonder and every mystery, and in her treasures is sealed every beauty of wisdom.” Finally, Nachmanides wrote, not only for educational and theological ends, but also for edification. His third purpose was “to bring peace to the minds of students (laboring under persecution and trouble), when they read the portion of the Pentateuch on Sabbaths and festivals, and to attract their hearts by simple explanations and sweet words.” His own enthusiastic and loving temperament speaks in this part of his commentary. It is true, as Graetz says, that Nachmanides exercised more influence on his contemporaries and on succeeding ages by his personality than by his writings. But it must be added that the writings of Nachmanides are his personality.
I.H. Weiss, Study of the Talmud in the Thirteenth
J.Q.R., I, p. 289.
S. Schechter.—Studies in Judaism, p. 99 .
Graetz.—III, 17; also III, p. 598 .
Graetz.—III, p. 375 .
Graetz.—III, p. 344 , 403 .