Rabbeinu Nissim

“Since the ancients have decided, their conclusions may not be set aside.”

9 Shvat
Rabbeinu Nissim ben Reuven haGerondi is known in shorthand as the RaN. He was born sometime between 1308-1320 and passed on between 1374-1376. The Ran is known as a great halachist and Talmudist, but his greatest impact was on his local community of Barcelona and Gerona. Though he never held any official posts, he clearly stepped up as a leader. Hundreds of years ago he was receiving questions from as far away as Israel and Syria.

The Ran was an original and independent thinker. He often did not hesitate to refute great earlier authorities such as Rashi, Rabbenu Tam, Rambam (Maimonides), and Ramban (Nachmanides). However, he showed his respect for his teachers by adopting their opinions in practice. Often after disputing their opinions, he would write, “yet since the ancients have decided thus, their conclusions may not be set aside.”

The Ran on Helping out a Friend:

When one wants to direct a person who has strayed back onto the proper path, there are two ways to do so. One is to inform him of his errors and to warn him of the consequences of continued foolishness. After all, if one ignores his errors, he cannot repent from them. The second way to re-direct a person is to inform him of his great potential and to tell him that even though he erred, he is still beloved.

(Derashot Ha’Ran V)

Parsha in Three Words:Bo = “Free at last!”

Meanwhile a Hidden Message:

Our sages teach that the name of this month Shvat (שבט) is an acronym for Shenishma (ש) Besurot (ב) Tovot (ט) which literally means “we should hear good news.” The month celebrates rebirth as specifically highlighted by one of the Jewish New Years that happens during the month; Tu b’Shvat (15th of the month) is the new year of trees. Have you ever done a Tu b’Shavt seder, let me know your favorite part!

Authors Notes:

With gratitude to Manny Saltiel for sending out a weekly newsletter of Jewish history that helps inspire these thoughts. Also a big shout out to Wikipedia for all the endless blackholes of history. If you have any feedback on my new blog please let me know

Alex is the Operations Director at TJE. With a degree in History (B.A.) and a schmaltz in Judaism (N.J.B.), this weekly “Blast from the Past” is a fun way to combine and share how the past can inform our future.