1250 AD to 1270 AD, Psalm 110: Nahmanides.

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This generation is that of the 1250s and 1260s.

While European Christianity marked its hegemony by launching a first attack against the Talmud in the previous generation, the ideological struggle continues to this generation.


Barcelone synagogue annote Fotolia_94878530_Subscription_Monthly_M    Jaime rogne annote Fotolia_29774311_Subscription_Monthly_XL

If the Jews of the previous generation had to defend themselves in a country governed by Louis IX, king radically hostile to the Jews, those of this generation must face a new debate in a country where the monarch is – relatively – well oriented towards the Jewish community , this one indeed has place in Barcelona.

The Christian kings of Spain at that time still need the Jews to carry out the reconquest, when this one will finish, it will be otherwise.
On the death of King Jaime I, who is actively attending the Barcelona dispute, the situation will begin to deteriorate for the Jews of Aragon.
The issue of the Barcelona dispute in 1263 is of prime importance for the Jews of Europe: a defeat would have allowed the Church to erase European Judaism.
The one who defends Jewish interests is a recognized authority of Spanish Judaism:
  • The authority [1] of Nahmanides is recognized not only by the Jews but also by Jaime with whom he has a special relationship. From 1211, his writings made him known and he quickly became a master of the first order in matters of Halakha (jurisdiction); a renowned commentator of the Torah, but also a cabalist, his many activities make him a central figure in the Jewish communities of the Iberian Peninsula. He is probably named chief rabbi of Catalonia in 1264, on the death of Jonas Abraham of Girona. The fame and authority of the Rabbi of Girona go beyond the borders of the crown of Aragon. His intervention in 1232, during the controversy between the supporters of Maimonides and his opponents in the Jewish communities of Provence is ample proof of this. A desire for conciliation emerges from the letters he addresses to the Aljamas of Catalonia, Aragon and Navarre and to the rabbis of northern France. Its ultimate purpose then is to avoid the destruction of the Jewish people and to protect them from external influences. Thus, to argue with Nahmanide is to argue with the “master” of the Jewish tradition. His reputation as a Talmudist identifies him as the protagonist in which the Church has set the goal of appropriating or censoring the Talmud.
This status of “master” is the subject of a real debate during the Barcelona dispute, its opponents try to question this title. Nahmanide is nicknamed the “Master of Girona”, a title that his opponents Paul Christiani dispute among others:
  • So well [2] that none of you now have the right to be called rabbi (my master). They call you Maestro is a mistake.
This challenge, which Nahmanide reports, is also reflected in the account of the dispute made by the Church:
  • As [3] it was made known that he should not be called “master” because since the passion of Christ, a Jew can not be called so, he conceded at least to recognize that it was true for about eight hundred years.
The beginning of this generation’s psalm favors Nahmanides, evoking the “Master” who can take over his enemies:

(extract of the psalm 110 associated to this generation, verse 1 )

  • Of David a psalm. The word of the Lord to my master; « Wait for My right hand, until I make your enemies a footstool at your feet. »
While the psalmist evokes the dispute of Barcelona and that Nahmanides is the one who leads the debates on the Jewish side, the beginning of the psalm of this generation is strangely evoked in this dispute it evokes! Thus the title of the psalm of this generation as well as the first verse are thus quoted in this dispute when the nature of Jesus is evoked:
  • Brother Paul [4] intervened:
    • Here is a psalm saying, “Of David a psalm. The word of the Lord to my master: Wait for My right hand“. Who is he whom King David calls “My Master,” if not God? And how could a man sit at the right hand of God?
In fact, quite irrationally, the protagonists are commenting on the verses they are creating through their debates. Recall that this process of recursion has been widely used in Psalm 104.
Thus in the debate, the subject that is the subject of the sequel of the psalm is also the subject of debate.
One of the elements of this debate is the question of the Messiah whom Christians identify with Jesus while the Jews are still waiting for his coming; Paul Christiani, a converted Jew who defends the interests of the church, addresses the subject:
  • Here is [5] what writing says:  « The scepter shall not depart from Judah,(…), until Shiloh comes, and to him will be a gathering of peoples. (quote from Bereishit – Genesis – Chapter 49, verse 10) » and who is the Messiah. This prophecy announces that Judah will always have power and sovereignty, until the Messiah emerges from him. Now, in this case, since you do not have a single tribe or legislator today, recognize that the Messiah, worthy descendants of Judah, has already come and that the kingdom belongs to him “.
  • The intention of the prophecy, I replied (it is Nahmanides speaking) is not to pretend that the sovereignty of Judah will never be abolished, but to certify that it will not be passed from Judah to other tribe. His purpose is to affirm that as long as there is a kingship for Israel, it will belong to Judah. And if it happens that the sovereignty of Israel is abolished because of sin, once returned, it will belong to Judah.
In fact, this dispute contributes to the realization of this prediction.
If the Dominicans fail to achieve their initial goal of converting Jewish communities in Europe, they compensate for this defeat by judicial harassment of the Jews. Indeed new constraints are decreed as a result of the dispute on the part of both royal power and the papacy.
Feeling no longer in the odor of sanctity, Nahmanides emigrates to the Holy Land imitating in this, Rabbi Yehiel of Paris who had debated him in Paris to the previous generation, and who, for similar reasons, had also taken the same path:
  • In 1257 [6], Rabbi Yehiel of Paris settles in Acre and founds there the Ham Hamidrash Hagadol Me Partz, the big house of Studies of Paris,
  • Ramban_shulIn 1267, the most famous emigrant was Rabbi Moshe Ben Nahman, Nahmanides (1194-1270), doctor and Spanish Talmudist. He settles in Jerusalem that does not have Jewish inhabitants at that time, builds a synagogue in an old abandoned house. This synagogue, the oldest in Jerusalem, bears its name and is still in use (after the Turkish conquest in 1517, it becomes a cheese factory and is used again as a synagogue only from 1967). He exhorts the Jews to return to live in Jerusalem. From this date, there are throughout the centuries, Jews in Jerusalem. He also teaches in Acre where he died in 1270.
  • Ramban’s aliyah is an example to his followers and to subsequent generations: indeed, he proclaims that living in Eretz Israel is one of the 613 Mitzvot of the Torah to which the Jewish people are subject.
Thus, by provoking the Barcelona dispute and Nahmanides’ departure to Israel, the Church contributes to the fulfillment of the promise made by Jacob to his descendants, which is repeated in the following of this generation’s psalm:

(extract of the psalm 110 associated to this generation, verses 2 and 3 )

  • The staff of your might the Lord will send from Zion; rule in the midst of your enemies.
  • Your people will volunteer on the day of your host, because of the beauty of holiness when you fell from the womb; for you, your youth is like dew.
Although the final return to Sion is still distant, it is irreversibly initiated to this generation thanks to the determination of Nahmanides who deserves the qualifier of “Master” until the night ends and the dawn of the Jewish people end up enlightening the world.
The end of the psalm corresponds to events associated with the generation 1250/1270 but will not be explained on this website.


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[1] (translated into French from Hebrew and Latin by) Eric Smilevich and Luc Ferrier: “The Barcelona dispute”. Introduction. (French: « La dispute de Barcelone ». Introduction  (p. 13-14) )

[2] (translated into French from Hebrew and Latin by) Eric Smilevich and Luc Ferrier: “The Barcelona dispute”.” First day “. (French: « La dispute de Barcelone ». « Premier jour » (p. 37) ).

[3] (translated into French from Hebrew and Latin by) Eric Smilevich and Luc Ferrier: “The Barcelona dispute”. “Minutes”. (French: « La dispute de Barcelone ». « Procès-verbal» (p. 104) ).

[4] (translated into French from Hebrew and Latin by) Eric Smilevich and Luc Ferrier: “The Barcelona dispute”. “Fourth day “. (French: « La dispute de Barcelone ». « Quatrième jour » (p. 35) ).

[5] (translated into French from Hebrew and Latin by) Eric Smilevich and Luc Ferrier: “The Barcelona dispute”. ” First day “. (French: « La dispute de Barcelone ». « Premier jour » (p. 35) ).

[6] Marianne Picard: “Jews and Judaism, from 70 to 1492 – Volume 2”. (French: « Juifs et Judaïsme, de 70 à 1492 – Tome 2 ». (p. 204-205) ).