Ramban’s Letter To His Son — Iggeret Ramban
(Written to his elder son, Nachman, with the instruction to read it weekly.)
This letter was sent by the great Sephardic Sage, the Ramban (Rabbi Moshe Ben Nachman, also known as Nahmanides), zt”l, from his city (of Acre in Eretz Yisrael) to his son in Catalina, Spain, to impart to him to act with humility. He instructs him to read it once a week and that others (like his children) should learn it with him as well. He should learn to read it by heart to learn the fear of heaven from his youth. He informs him that on the day that he reads this letter, all that he asks, will be answered by heaven. And whoever will accustom themselves to saying it will spare themselves from all pains and they are assured to inherit the world to come. (From the book Me’ulephet Sappirim.)
Hear, my son, the instruction of your father and do not abandon the law of your mother. (1) Accustom yourself to speak all your words with gentleness to all people at all times. This will protect you from anger – which is an unfavorable trait that brings people to sin. And thus said the our sages of blessed memory:
Whoever becomes angry all types of Gehinam have power over him (2), as it states: Remove anger from your heart, and eliminate evil from your flesh (3) – and the evil that is meant here refers to Gehinam, as it states: And also the wicked is destined for the day of evil. (4) And when you free yourself from anger, the trait of humility will enter your heart – for this is the finest quality of all favorable traits. As our Scripture says: The heel of humility is the awe of Hashem. (5) And through humility you will gain upon your heart the trait of awe. Because you will always know in your heart where you came from, where you will go and that you are delicate as a worm or a maggot in your lifetime and even more so at the time of death. Remember before whom in the future you will give a reckoning and an accounting for your deeds – before the King of Kings. As it states: The heavens and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. (6) – how much more the hearts of men. (7) As it is states: Do I not fill up the heavens and the earth? says Hashem. (8)
When you contemplate all this, you will fear your creator and you will be guarded from transgression. And with these qualities you will be happy with your lot [in life].
When you accustom yourself with the quality of humility – to be reserved
And now my son know and observe, that the one who
If he has wealth – it is Hashem who declares poverty and bestows riches. If it is because of honor, doesn’t too belong to Hashem? As it says: And the riches and the honor
And if one glorifies himself because of his wisdom: He removes the speech of the trusty and takes away the wisdom of the elders. (11)
It is found that all is equal before the
Therefore I will advise you how you should be accustom yourself to the trait of humility – to act with it always. All your words should be said with calmness, and your head should be bowed. Lower your eyes down to the ground, and direct your heart upward. And do not stare at a person when you speak with them. Each person should seem greater than you in your eyes – if he is more wise or wealthy than yourself, it is upon you to honor him.
If he is needy and you are wealthier or wiser, think in your heart that you are more obligated in your deeds than him and he is more meritorious than you when he does good deeds. Because if he transgresses, it is unintentional, and if you do, it is deliberate.
In all your conversations and all your deeds and your thoughts, at all times, think in your heart as if you are standing before the Holy one blessed be he and that his Sh’china (divine presence) is upon you, because His Glory (Honor) fills the world. And let your words be said with fear and awe like a servant who stands before his master – and act with timidity before all men. And if a person calls you do not answer with a loud voice – just respond with calmness as if you are standing before your mentor.
And be attentive to learn Torah with diligence so that you can fulfill it. When you rise from your book – reflect on what you learned -if
into your daily life. Search into your deeds in the morning and night – and thus you shall devote all your days to in repentance.
Remove from your heart all your worldly preoccupations when you pray, and prepare your heart before the Omnipresent, blessed be He. Purify your thoughts and reflect upon the words before they leave your mouth. Thus you shall do all the days that your breath remains, with each and
Read this letter once every week and not less – to apply it and you will walk after Hashem – May He Be Blessed – always, so that you will be successful in all your endeavors and you will inherit the world to come that is hidden for the righteous. And every day that you read this letter, whatever that you desire in your heart will be answered by heaven… forevermore. Amen.
References: (1) Proverbs 1:8, (2) Nedarim 22a, (3) Ecclesiastics 11:10, (4) Proverbs 16:4, (5) Proverbs 22:4, (6) Kings I 8:27, Chronicles II 6:18 (7) Proverbs 15:11, (8) Jeremiah 23:24, (9) Psalms 93:1, (10) Chronicles I 29:12, (11) Job 12:20, (12) Psalms 10:17.