Vilna Gaon

Vilna Gaon
Vilna Gaon (Zalkind, Ber)
Elijah Ben Solomon, the Vilna Gaon
The Vilna Gaon monument at the site of the Great Synagogue of Vilna
The Vilna Gaon synagogue in Sha'arei Hesed, Jerusalem

Talmudist, halakhist, kabbalist, and the foremost leader of misnagdic (non-hasidic) Jewry of the past few centuries.

- Vilna Gaon

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Religious movement among the Jews of Eastern Europe which resisted the rise of Hasidism in the 18th and 19th centuries.

An anathema against the Hasidim, signed by the Gaon of Vilna and other community officials. August 1781.
The Vilna Gaon
Litvishe yeshiva students in Israel

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


Traditional Jewish educational institution focused on the study of Rabbinic literature, primarily the Talmud and halacha (Jewish law), while Torah and Jewish philosophy are studied in parallel.

Mir Yeshiva (Jerusalem) – largest yeshiva in the world
A typical bet midrash – Yeshivas Ner Yisroel, Baltimore
Chavrusas in study – Yeshiva Gedola of Carteret
Morning seder, Or-Yisrael - a yeshiva founded by the Chazon Ish
Shiur in memory of Rav Aharon Lichtenstein at Yeshivat Har Etzion, a Hesder yeshiva
Rabbinical students in shiur, Jerusalem
Shiur klali, Slabodka Yeshiva
A depiction of Sura (from Beit Hatefutsot)
Volozhin yeshiva, “mother of the yeshivas”
Mir yeshiva
Ponevezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak, Israel
Chachmei Lublin Yeshiva, now a national monument
The Breslov Yeshiva in Mea Shearim, Jerusalem.
Satmar Yeshiva in Brooklyn, New York.
Bobov Kollel in Jerusalem
Geula branch of Porat Yosef Yeshiva.
Kisse Rahamim yeshivah, Bnei Brak
JTS building in Manhattan
Reconstructionist Rabbinical College
Beth Medrash Govoha, Lakewood, New Jersey – largest yeshiva outside Israel.
Mercaz Harav, Jerusalem
Kollel Birkat Yitzhak, Moscow
Mir Yeshiva in Brooklyn
Mincha, Yeshiva Centre, Melbourne
Talmud Torah, Russia, 1937
Yeshiva High School, Tel Aviv, 1938
"Cheder"-class in Talmud, Tel Aviv, 1946.
Bet Midrash, Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh
Gemara, the first page of tractate Rosh Hashanah
A full set of the Babylonian Talmud
Chavrusas learning beki'ut, recording their summary of each sugya alongside its Mishnah
Set of Mishneh Torah
Cover of the first edition of Mesillat Yesharim.
Chumash with Mikraot Gedolot
Chumash with Yiddish translation

Organised Torah study was revolutionised by Chaim Volozhin, an influential 18th-century Lithuanian leader of Judaism and disciple of the Vilna Gaon.

Shulchan Aruch

Most widely consulted of the various legal codes in Judaism.

A wealth of later works include commentary and exposition by such halachic authorities as the Ketzoth ha-Choshen and Avnei Millu'im, Netivoth ha-Mishpat, the Vilna Gaon, Rabbi Yechezkel Landau (Dagul Mervavah), Rabbis Akiva Eger, Moses Sofer, and Chaim Joseph David Azulai (Birkei Yosef) whose works are widely recognized and cited extensively in later halachic literature.

Torah study

Study of the Torah, Hebrew Bible, Talmud, responsa, rabbinic literature and similar works, all of which are Judaism's religious texts.

Rabbis debating the Talmud, 1870
A historic painting of Jews studying Torah
Students in the Mir Yeshiva, Jerusalem studying Talmud as a chavrusa
A Torah class in Jerusalem
Rabbis engaged in Talmud study, early 20th century
A Shiur being given by the Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshivat Har Etzion
Rabbi and his students in Moscow, Russia
Yeshivat Har Etzion in Alon Shevut

The Zilberman Method, pioneered in the mid-20th century by Yitzhak Shlomo Zilberman, draws upon traditional teaching methods as outlined by Chazal and championed by the Judah Loew ben Bezalel and Vilna Gaon.


Institute for full-time, advanced study of the Talmud and rabbinic literature.

Kollel Birkat Yitzchak in Moscow

The first examples were Kolel Perushim (students of the Vilna Gaon who established the first Ashkenazi Jewish settlement in Jerusalem) and Colel Chabad for the Russian Hasidim.

Shneur Zalman of Liadi

Influential rabbi and the founder and first Rebbe of Chabad, a branch of Hasidic Judaism, then based in Liadi in the Russian Empire.

Writing sample from the Brockhaus and Efron Jewish Encyclopedia (1906–1913)
The French retreat from Moscow
Kozienice Synagogue in Poland. Some Polish Hasidic leaders supported Napoleon
Petropavlovski fortress in St. Petersburg
New guesthouse next to his Ohel
His grave in Hadiach
The Tanya, a classic text of Hasidic philosophy
1875 edition of the Shulchan Aruch HaRav

Shneur Zalman and a fellow Hasidic leader, Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk (or, according to the tradition in the Soloveitchik family, Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev), attempted to persuade the leader of Lithuanian Jewry, the Vilna Gaon, of the legitimacy of Hasidic practices.

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).

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").

Herem (censure)

Highest ecclesiastical censure in the Jewish community.

Herem placed on the Hasidim by the Vilna Gaon in 1781.

Another renowned case is the herem the Vilna Gaon ruled against the early Hassidic groups in 1777 and then again in 1781, under the charge of believing in panentheism.


Acharonim (אחרונים Aḥaronim; sing.

Yosef Karo
Isaac Aboab da Fonseca
Shneur Zalman of Liadi
Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin
Israel Meir Kagan
Menachem Mendel Schneerson
Ovadia Yosef

Vilna Gaon ("Gra") (1720–1797), Lithuanian Talmudist and Kabbalist; Note: The Chazon Ish held him to be a Rishon

Volozhin Yeshiva

Prestigious Lithuanian yeshiva located in the town of Volozhin, Russian Empire, (now Valozhyn, Belarus).

Photograph of the Volozhin yeshiva
Volozhin yeshiva. Silver coin of Belarus, 10 rubles, 2010, 925, diam. 33 mm, revers
Tempera, Anatoly Nalivaev, 1964
Tempera, Anatoly Nalivaev, 1967

It was founded by Rabbi Ḥayyim Volozhiner, a student of the famed Vilna Gaon, and trained several generations of scholars, rabbis, and leaders.