#930 (s5776-02 / 8 Tishrei 5776)

A Heaven-Inspired Torah Code

His former student, now a noble, summoned the Ramban to appear before him…on Yom Kippur!

Connections (2): Weekly Reading--verse 32:26 is central to the story; .Seasonal--the events of the story took place on Yom Kippur

A Heaven Inspired Torah Code


In the mid 13th century, Ramban once had a student, Avner, who unfortunately converted to Catholicism and assimilated into Spanish society. After some years, he rose to the highest ranks of the nobility. One time, he summoned his former teacher to appear before him…on Yom Kippur!

Fearful of the possible negative consequences that could arise from not heeding the order and hopeful that the influence of the holy day would enable him to spur his former student to repentance, Ramban made his way to Avner's palace.

When he entered, he was ushered into his student's chamber. Avner had been waiting for him. He took a knife, approached a pig he had prepared, slaughtered it, cut it up, roasted its meat on a fire, and ate it with gleeful satisfaction.

"How many transgressions involving the punishment of kerais did I just commit?" he asked Ramban.

"Four," the sage answered.

"No, five," Avner replied. He sought to justify his statement, but Ramban looked at him with anger and he remained silent.

"Why did you forsake the Torah?" Ramban asked.

"You are at fault," Avner replied.

"I! What did I do?"

"Once at a public lecture, you stated that everything that will ever transpire is alluded to in the Ha'azinu song (Deut. 32: 1-43). I considered that a most preposterous statement and decided that I wanted no part of a religion whose teachers would utter such absurdities."

"What I said is absolutely true," replied Ramban.

"Prove it to me," responded Avner. "Show me where my name is alluded to in Ha'azinu."

Ramban went to a corner and prayed for inspiration. After a moment's thought, the Ramban answered: "It is written in Ha'azinu (ibid, verse 26), 'I will scatter them; I will obliterate their memory from among mankind." The third letters of each of the five [Hebrew] words of the verse, in order, spell 'R. Avner'." ['R.' is an abbreviation for 'Rav' or 'Rabbi'.]

Avner was amazed. He ran to check the text and saw that it was true. "What can I do to correct my years of error?" he asked in awe.

"Follow the directive of the verse," the Ramban replied.

Shortly afterwards, a black-masted ship set off from a Spanish harbor to a destination unknown.

Significantly, the allusion to Avner in the verse included the title 'Rav.' The Torah evaluates a person according to his ultimate destiny. Since Rav Avner turned to G-d in genuine teshuvah, his repentance was accepted. Hence, even before he repented, the Torah alluded to him as Rav.

Source: As told by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, L.o.o.g (Hisvaadiyus 5742m /vik 1m oo. 116-117). Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from the translation of Rabbi Shaul Y. Leiter, executive director of Ascent.

Biographical note:
Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, known as 'RaMBaN' or 'Nachmanides' [1194 - 11 Nissan (!) 1270], is accepted as one of the all-time great Talmudic and Scriptural scholars. He was also a master kabbalist, a major link in the transmission of Jewish mysticism. He is well-known as a champion defender of the Jewish faith, as a result of his participation and victory in a famous debate again Cristian clergy in 1263. As a result, he was expelled from Spain. Subsequently, he moved to the Holy Land at age 70 where he composed his immortal commentary on the Five Books of Moses, of which there exists an excellent annotated English translation, Nachmanides on the Torah, by Rabbi Dr. Charles B. Chavel.

Connections: 1-Weekly Reading--verse 32:26 is central to the story.
2-Seasonal--the events of the story took place on Yom Kippur

Yerachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and chief editor of this website (and of KabbalaOnline.org). He has hundreds of published stories to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages. He tells them live at Ascent nearly every Saturday night.

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