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Personal Seals

49. Seal of Moses Son of Nachman (Nachmanides)

Moshe bar Naḥman Nun-Nun Girondi Ḥazak

Moses Son of Nachman, May His Soul Rest, of Gerona, Have Vigor

Dimensions: 22 × 17 mm. Matrix.

Location: Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 105/215; 578.22.†

Bibliography: Shachar, 1972.

This seal, found in a field near Acre in Israel, is copper and oblong in shape. The Hebrew legend is shown in four separate lines, rather tastefully organized, somewhat like the reverse lettering on certain Hasmonean coins of ancient Judaea. Girondi indicates a person from the city of Gerona in Spain. The expression Ḥazak is a biblical benediction, “have vigor” or “be strong,” and was used by medieval Hebrew poets.

The seal is reputed to be that of Nachmanides, the famous Spanish rabbi known by the Hebrew acronym RaMBaN and called Bonastruc de Porta by the Spanish. Born in Gerona, Aragon, in 1194, Nachmanides established a reputation as the foremost Spanish Talmudist. After a public religious disputation in Barcelona in 1267 before King James I of Catalonia-Aragon, in which he triumphed, Nachmanides was put on trial for blasphemy and then forced to leave Spain. For the remainder of his life he lived in Acre, then Palestine, where he reorganized the Jewish community.

The seal was found in 1972. The Hebrew script is typical of similar inscriptions discovered in the Barcelona area from the thirteenth and fourteenth century. The date of the seal is unknown, as is its place of manufacture. The seal is among the most important in its category, and its accidental discovery is so close to miraculous that a certain skepticism has been expressed regarding its authenticity. (This writer does not know whether any metallurgical tests have been employed to resolve the question.)

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