By Immanuel Etkes, Jeffrey Green
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A mythical determine in his personal lifetime, Rabbi Eliahu ben Shlomo Zalman (1720-1797) was once referred to as the "Gaon of Vilna. " He used to be the stated grasp of Talmudic reports within the vivid highbrow heart of Vilna, respected all through jap Europe for his studying and his skill to traverse conveniently possible adverse domain names of proposal and task.
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Additional info for The Gaon of Vilna: The Man and His Image
One of the Gaon’s virtues, according to Levine, was his familiarity with secular knowledge: “When he was twelve years old, there was no science too difﬁcult for him. . 8 Further conﬁrmation of the Gaon’s amazing proﬁciency in the secular sciences could be derived—so claimed Levine—from the “enemy camp” itself. Aliyot Eliyahu includes two episodes concerned with scientists’ impressions of the Gaon. The ﬁrst episode relates that when the Gaon paid a visit to Berlin, he was approached by a German professor, the vilna gaon and haskalah 43 head of three celebrated universities, who presented the Gaon with a complicated problem that he and his colleagues had been unable to solve.
And he revised them with evidence as clear as the sun; only two grave things in the mysteries of the Torah of the Zohar were questionable for him. . 32 This is the essence of what Rabbi Israel heard from his colleague Rabbi Menahem Mendel about the ceremony that the Gaon held when he ﬁnished his interpretation of the Song of Songs. I use the word ceremony because from the testimony presented here it appears that the Gaon did indeed initiate an event of exceptional character. The invitation of his son’s father-in-law and his son to join him and his disciple, and the instruction he gave to close the windows and light candles in full daylight, and of course the words he said to those present—all of this indicates his intention to make the conclusion of his commentary on the Song of Songs into an event of ceremonial character.
And, in addition to teaching 40 the vilna gaon and haskalah himself the whole theory of grammar and language, and all the theoretical sciences, he urged wise men versed in languages to translate into the holy tongue books of secular knowledge by Gentile scholars. As further proof of the Gaon’s favorable attitude to the goals of Haskalah, Fin cites the testimony of the great rabbi’s sons regarding their father’s ideal curriculum: First of all he cautioned . . to be expert in all twenty-four books [of the Bible,] with their vocalization and cantilation.
The Gaon of Vilna: The Man and His Image by Immanuel Etkes, Jeffrey Green