Letter of the Ramban / Iggeret HaRamban
This letter was sent by the Ramban (Rabbi Moshe 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 & 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 & they are assured to inherit the world to come. (From book Me’ulephet Sappirim.)
Hear, my son, the instruction of your father & 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, & eliminate evil from your flesh (3) – and the evil that is meant here refers to Gehinam, as it states: [G-d made everything for His purpose] – And even the wicked 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 Hash·m. (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 & that you are delicate as a worm or a maggot in your lifetime & even more so at the time of death. Remember before whom in the future you will give a reckoning & an accounting for your deeds – before the King of Kings.(6) As it states: The heavens & the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. (7) how much more the hearts of men.(8) As it is states: Do I not fill up the heavens & the earth? says Hash·m. (9)
When you contemplate all this, you will fear your creator & 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 before all men & to fear before G·d & from transgression -then will the spirit of the divine presence & the radiance of His Glory rest upon you & [you will gain] life in the world to come.
And now my son know & observe, that the one who is haughty in his heart over his fellow creatures, rebels against the Kingdom of heaven. Because he glorifies himself with the royal garments of the Kingdom of heaven, as it states: Hash·m reigns – he is clothed in glory. (10)
And what is there for a person to make his heart haughty? If he has wealth – it is Hash·m who declares poverty & bestows riches. (11) If it is because of honor, doesn’t too belong to Hash·m? As it says: “And the riches & the honor comes from You.” (12) And how can one glorify oneself with the honor of his Creator. And if one glorifies himself because of his wisdom: “He removes the speech of the trusty & takes away the wisdom of the elders.” (13)
It is found that all is equal before the Omnipresent, because with His anger He makes the haughty fall, & with His will he raises up the fallen. Thus lower yourself & Hash·m will raise you.
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, & your head should be bowed. Lower your eyes down to the ground, & direct your heart upward. & 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 & you are wealthier or wiser, think in your heart that you are more obligated in your deeds than him & he is more meritorious than you when he does good deeds. Because if he transgresses, it is unintentional, & if you do, it is deliberate.
In all your conversations & all your deeds & your thoughts, at all times, think in your heart as if you are standing before the Holy One Blessed Be He & that His Sh’china (Divine Presence) is upon you, because His Glory (Honor) fills the world. And let your words be said with fear & awe like a servant who stands before his master – & 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 there is something that you can incorporate into your daily life. Search into your deeds in the morning & night – & thus you shall devote all your days to in repentance.
Remove from your heart all your worldly preoccupations when you pray, & prepare your heart before the Omnipresent, Blessed Be He. Purify your thoughts & reflect upon the words before they leave your mouth. Thus you shall do all the days that your breath remains, with each & every thing, & thus you will be spared from transgressing. Through this your words, your actions, & your thoughts will be proper. Your prayers will be meritorious, clear & pure, meaningful & accepted before G·d, Blessed be He – as it states, You will prepare their heart & You will cause their ears to hear. (14)
Read this letter once every week & not less – to apply it & you will walk after Hash·m – Blessed Be He – always, so that you will be successful in all your endeavors & 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. Selah!
Sources: (1) Proverbs 1:8, (2) Nedarim 22a, (3) Kohelet / Ecc. 11:10, (4) Proverbs 16:4, (5) Mishle/Prvb. 22:4, (6) Avot 3:1 (7) Kings I 8:27; Chronicles II 6:18; (8) Mishle / Proverbs 15:11, (9) Jeremiah 23:24, (10) Psalms 93:1, (11) Samuel I 2:7 (12) Chronicles I 29:12, (13) Job 12:20, (14) Psalms 10:17. Glossary: Gehinam – Hell , Sh’china – The Divine Presence
Advice to Overcome Anger:
Advice to overcome anger – Explained here are four very useful pieces of advice to overcome anger & to fix one’s character traits. Behold we expounded to explain general advice & essentials that are very useful useful to break the force of the evil inclination & they are the four following :
1) To learn regularly books of Mussar (Ethics) regarding the [great] elevation & reward of one who works on oneself & the degradation & punishment of one that transgresses.
2) To reflect & to delve deeply in his thoughts continuously of the Oneness of Hash·m, Blessed Be He, & that all that exists & all their forces & in all their movements at every place & at every moment & even that they are a person of free will & even though the evil inclination & the evil force incites him all – as if it would be – is from Hash·m.
3) One should reflect over time it will be in his eyes that that the matter already passed
4) One should regularly constantly pray in one’s prayers before Hash-m, Blessed Be He with crying & tears about this that He should save him from the evil inclination & He should approach him to His service, Blessed Be He.
And refer to book for explanation & sources (Azor HaTzevi)