Rabbi Nissim ben Reuven


Rabbi Nissim Ben Reuven (the Ran) was born in Spain in the 14th Century. An authoratative posek, he was never officially a community rabbi, but played both this role and the role of dayan of the Barcelona community. The Ran was so well respected that he received questions from as far away as Eretz Yisrael and Syria. 

At one stage, the Ran served as physician in the royal palace. Due to defamation, Rabbi Nissim was wrongly accused and jailed for a time. 

In 1336, the Ran wrote his own Torah scroll for personal use. This scroll was used as a model, and moved from place to place. It was held in Tiberias until recently. The Ran was the head of the Barcelona Yeshiva. His own teachers were his father, as well as Perez ha-Cohen, whom he assisted in becoming rabbi of Barcelona. 

The Ran's Halachic works reflect the traditions of the school of the Ramban, Rashba, Aaron Ha-Levi of Barcelona and their contemporaries. He created unique adaptations of their works, crystalizing them and adding to them. One of his greatest works was a commentary on the halachot of Isaac Alfasi on the Talmud. The Ran is published in the margins of Alfasi's work from the first time they were printed to the present day.

Rabbi Nissim wrote novel interpretations of tractates of the Talmud, including Gittin, Niddah, Hullin (to the end of chapter 8), Bava Metzia, Shevuot, Rosh Hashana, Avodah Zarah, Mo'ed Katan, Bava Batra, Eruvin and Pesachim. His commentary on Nedarim is included in all publications of this tractate, in place of Rashi. 

Of the responsa he authored, only 77 are still in existance, along with 12 sermons. He also wrote piyyutim and poems. His commentary on Bereshit is the only one of his Torah commentaries that has been published.

The Ran's works show his constant desire to increase the people's faith and strengthen them in times of persecution, through emphasizing the superiority of prophecy and Torah over philosophy.