Yahrtzeit of Rabbi Moses ben Nachman (1194-1270), known as Nachmanides, and by the acronym of his name, Ramban. Born in Spain, he was a physician by trade, but was best-known for authoring brilliant commentaries on the Bible, Talmud, and philosophy. In 1263, King James of Spain authorized a disputation (religious debate) between Nachmanides and a Jewish convert to Christianity, Pablo Christiani. Nachmanides reluctantly agreed to take part, only after being assured by the king that he would have full freedom of expression. Nachmanides won the debate, which earned the king's respect and a prize of 300 gold coins. But this incensed the Church: Nachmanides was charged with blasphemy and he was forced to flee Spain. So at age 72, Nachmanides moved to Jerusalem. He was struck by the desolation in the Holy City -- there were so few Jews that he could not even find a minyan to pray. Nachmanides immediately set about rebuilding the Jewish community. The Ramban Synagogue stands today in Jerusalem's Old City, a living testimony to his efforts.
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