> Day in Jewish History

Tishrei 19

January 5, 2010 | by

Tishrei 19 is the yahrtzeit of Rabbi Eliyahu Kramer (1720-1797), known as the Vilna Gaon ("the genius from Vilna"). He is regarded as the greatest rabbi of the past 500 years. The Vilna Gaon possessed a photographic memory: At age three he already knew the entire Bible by heart, and by age seven he knew several tractates of Talmud by heart. Legend says that by age 12 he was able to kabbalistically create a Golem (life out of formless mass). He was known to have slept only two hours per day, in six 20-minute intervals. He wrote commentaries on all the classical Jewish works -- Bible, Talmud, Code of Jewish Law, plus various Kabbalistic works. He was also a renowned expert in mathematics and astronomy. There is a statue of him and a street named after him in Vilnius, Lithuania. The Vilna Gaon set out for Israel in 1783, but for unknown reasons did not attain his goal. He inspired his disciples to make the move, however, and in 1809 a group of 70 became pioneers of modern settlement in Israel.


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