Long before Max Ehrman’s Desiderata was published in the 1920s, cautioning the desirability of being on good terms with all people, Moshe Ben-Nahman, or Nahmanides, penned a letter to his son Nahman, advising him to “speak gently to all people at all times.” This missive was sent from Eretz Yisrael to Spain.

Arriving in Jerusalem in the second half of the 13th century, Nahmanides, also known as the Ramban, was taken aback by the poverty and absence of Jewish life compared to the prosperous Jewish communities he had left behind. He found only two Jews in Jerusalem, both expert dyers. They were allowed to live in the city because they specialized in dyeing silk from Damascus, which was very popular at the time.

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