Vilna Gaon
An anathema against the Hasidim, signed by the Gaon of Vilna and other community officials. August 1781.
Vilna Gaon (Zalkind, Ber)
The Vilna Gaon
Elijah Ben Solomon, the Vilna Gaon
Litvishe yeshiva students in Israel
The Vilna Gaon monument at the site of the Great Synagogue of Vilna
The Vilna Gaon synagogue in Sha'arei Hesed, Jerusalem

Elijah ben Solomon Zalman, (ר' אליהו בן שלמה זלמן Rabbi Eliyahu ben Shlomo Zalman) known as the Vilna Gaon (דער װילנער גאון, Gaon z Wilna, Vilniaus Gaonas) or Elijah of Vilna, or by his Hebrew acronym HaGra ("HaGaon Rabbenu Eliyahu": "The sage, our teacher, Elijah") or Elijah Ben Solomon Zalman (Sialiec, April 23, 1720 – Vilnius October 9, 1797), was a Talmudist, halakhist, kabbalist, and the foremost leader of misnagdic (non-hasidic) Jewry of the past few centuries.

- Vilna Gaon

The movement's leaders, like the Gaon of Vilna and Chaim of Volozhin, were deeply immersed in kabbalah.

- Misnagdim
Vilna Gaon

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Hasidic Judaism

Jewish religious group that arose as a spiritual revival movement in the territory of contemporary Western Ukraine during the 18th century, and spread rapidly throughout Eastern Europe.

Jewish religious group that arose as a spiritual revival movement in the territory of contemporary Western Ukraine during the 18th century, and spread rapidly throughout Eastern Europe.

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The Kaliver Rebbe, Holocaust survivor, inspiring his court on the festival of Sukkot
Kvitel requests for blessing piled on the graves of the last Lubavitcher Rebbes
Hasidic family in Borough Park, Brooklyn. The man is wearing a shtreimel, and either a bekishe or a rekel. The woman is wearing a wig, called a sheitel, as she is forbidden to show her hair in public.
Rabbi Moshe Leib Rabinovich, Munkacser Rebbe, wearing a kolpik
The Dorohoi Rebbe in his traditional rabbinical Sabbath garb
Sculpture of the Hasidic movement's celebration of spirituality on the Knesset Menorah
Israel ben Eliezer's autograph
Shivchei HaBesht (Praises of the Baal Shem Tov), the first compilation of Hasidic hagiographic storytelling, was printed from manuscripts in 1815
Palace of the Ruzhin dynasty, known for its "royal" mannerism, in Sadhora.
Belzer Rebbe Aharon Rokeach (depicted 1934), who was hidden from the Nazis and smuggled out of Europe.

Concurrently, the image of its Opponents as dreary intellectuals who lacked spiritual fervour and opposed mysticism is likewise unfounded.

Rabbi Elijah of Vilnius, one of the greatest authorities of the generation and a hasid and secret kabbalist of the old style, was deeply suspicious of their emphasis on mysticism, rather than mundane Torah study, threat to established communal authority, resemblance to the Sabbatean movement, and other details he considered infractions.

Jewish Kabbalists portrayed in 1641; woodcut on paper. Saxon University Library, Dresden.

Kabbalah

Esoteric method, discipline, and school of thought in Jewish mysticism.

Esoteric method, discipline, and school of thought in Jewish mysticism.

Jewish Kabbalists portrayed in 1641; woodcut on paper. Saxon University Library, Dresden.
Kabbalistic prayer book from Italy, 1803. Jewish Museum of Switzerland, Basel.
Latin translation of Gikatilla's Shaarei Ora
The Ark of the Covenant in Solomon's Temple was the seat for God's presence. Ezekiel and Isaiah had prophetic visions of the angelic heavenly Chariot and Divine Throne
Grave of Rabbi Akiva in Tiberias. He features in Hekhalot mystical literature, and as one of the four who entered the Pardes
The grave of Shimon bar Yochai in Meron before 1899. A Talmudic Tanna, he is the mystical teacher in the central Kabbalistic work, the Zohar
The 13th-century eminence of Nachmanides, a classic rabbinic figure, gave Kabbalah mainstream acceptance through his Torah commentary
The leading scholars of Safed in 16th-century invigorated mainstream Judaism through new legal, liturgical, exegetical and Lurianic-mythological developments.
Synagogue Beit El Jerusalem. Oriental Judaism has its own chain of Kabbalah
The 16th-century Maharal of Prague articulated a mystical exegesis in philosophical language
Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, a leading Italian kabbalist, also wrote secular works, which the Haskalah see as the start of modern Hebrew literature
The Vilna Gaon, 18th-century leader of rabbinic opposition to Hasidism—a Kabbalist who opposed Hasidic doctrinal and practical innovations
Synagogue of the Baal Shem Tov, founder of Hasidism, in Medzhybizh (Ukraine). It gave a new phase to Jewish mysticism, seeking its popularisation through internal correspondence.
The Kabbalist (c. 1910–1920), portrait of an Hasidic man in Jewish religious clothing performed by the Austro-Hungarian Jewish painter Isidor Kaufmann (Jewish Museum, New York)
Metaphorical scheme of emanated spiritual worlds within the Ein Sof
Scheme of descending Sephirot in three columns, as a tree with roots above and branches below
In the 16–17th centuries Kabbalah was popularised through a new genre of ethical literature, related to Kabbalistic meditation
Amulet from the 15th century. Theosophical kabbalists, especially Luria, censored contemporary Practical Kabbalah, but allowed amulets by Sages
Joseph Karo's role as both legalist and mystic underscores Kabbalah's spiritualisation of normative Jewish observance
Building on Kabbalah's conception of the soul, Abraham Abulafia's meditations included the "inner illumination of" the human form
16th-century graves of Safed, Galilee. The messianic focus of its mystical renaissance culminated in Lurianic thought.
Title page of first printed edition of the Zohar, main sourcebook of Kabbalah, from Mantua, Italy in 1558
Golden age of Spanish Judaism on the Knesset Menorah, Maimonides holding Aristotle's work
Kabbalah mysticism on the Knesset Menorah, which shared some similarities of theory with Jewish Neoplatonists
Tikkun for reading through the night of Shavuot, a popular Jewish custom from the Safed Kabbalists
A version of Lekhah Dodi song to welcome the Shabbat, a cross denomination Jewish custom from Kabbalah

He is supported by the Bier Hetiv, the Pithei Teshuva as well as the Vilna Gaon.

In a unique amalgam of Hasidic and Mitnaged approaches, Rebbe Nachman emphasised study of both Kabbalah and serious Torah scholarship to his disciples.

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn of Lubavitch

Rebbe

Spiritual leader in the Hasidic movement, and the personalities of its dynasties.

Spiritual leader in the Hasidic movement, and the personalities of its dynasties.

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn of Lubavitch
The Bostoner Rebbe feert tish, lit. "runs [a] table" in his synagogue in Beitar Illit

3) Spiritual leader—The spiritual head of a Hasidic movement is called a rebbe . His followers would address him as "The Rebbe" or refer to him when speaking to others as "the Rebbe" or "my Rebbe". He is referred to by others as the Rebbe of a particular Hasidic dynasty. In Hebrew, a Hasidic rebbe is often referred to as an AdMoR, which is an abbreviation for Adoneinu, Moreinu, veRabbenu ("Our Master, our Teacher, and our Rabbi"). In writing, this title is placed before the name of the Hasidut, as in "Admor of Belz"; while the title Rebbe comes after the name of the Hasidut when used as an adjective, as in "Lubavitcher Rebbe", "Amshinever Rebbe", and every rebbe of every Hasidic dynasty. In the Litvishe world, when not referring to a hasidic rebbe, the word can be pronounced "rebbee" . Sephardic Jews can pronounce it as "Ribbi" . The Lubavitcher hasidim have a tradition that the Hebrew letters that make up the word rebbe are also an acronym for "Rosh Bnei Yisroel", meaning "a spiritual head of the Children of Israel".

The Gaon — A variant of the healer-type was the Talmudic genius (gaon) who could offer blessing through the merit of his Talmudic study. This tradition was not limited to Hasidism but also was applied to non-Hasidic rabbis such as Yechezkel Landau of Prague and the Gaon of Vilna.

Map showing percentage of Jews in the Pale of Settlement in the Russian Empire c. 1905.

Lithuanian Jews

Lithuanian Jews or Litvaks are Jews with roots in the territory of the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania (covering present-day Lithuania, Belarus, Latvia, the northeastern Suwałki and Białystok regions of Poland, as well as adjacent areas of modern-day Russia and Ukraine).

Lithuanian Jews or Litvaks are Jews with roots in the territory of the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania (covering present-day Lithuania, Belarus, Latvia, the northeastern Suwałki and Białystok regions of Poland, as well as adjacent areas of modern-day Russia and Ukraine).

Map showing percentage of Jews in the Pale of Settlement in the Russian Empire c. 1905.
Portrait of Lithuanian yeshiva students
LITVISH. An Atlas of Northeastern Yiddish by Dovid Katz. Cartography by Giedre Beconyte

No other famous Jew is more closely linked to a specifically Lithuanian city than Vilna Gaon (in Yiddish, "the genius of Vilna").

However, following the dispute between the Hasidim and the Misnagdim, in which the Lithuanian academies were the heartland of opposition to Hasidism, "Lithuanian" came to have the connotation of Misnagdic (non-Hasidic) Judaism generally, and to be used for all Jews who follow the traditions of the great Lithuanian yeshivot, whether or not their ancestors actually came from Lithuania.