Vilna Gaon

June 14, 2006

Rabbi Elijah ben Solomon Zalman, also known as Ha-Gra, was the foremost scholar-sage of Lithuanian Jewry in the eighteenth-century, and has become the spiritual forefather for much of the non-Chassidic yeshiva world. Known for his greatness in Talmudic and Kabbalistic study, he likewise mastered astronomy, mathematics and music. His system of Talmudic study focused on trying to find the true meaning intended by the sages in the text.

Known for fierce opposition to Chassidut, which was initiated in 1736 by the Baal Shem Tov, he and his followers in this anti-Chassidic Movement were known as “Mitnagdim,” or opponents. Their opposition was based on the beliefs, vigorously denied by Chassidic leaders, that Chassidut took liberties with the Oral Law, that it substituted emotion for intellect in the Study of Torah, that its form of prayer departed too far from the traditional form of prayer, etc.