Vilna Gaon or Elijah of Vilna (Eyliohu ben Shloyme-Zalmen)

Vilna Gaon Elijah ben Solomon Zalman (left) and Kaunas rabbi Yitzchak Elchanan Spektor, lithograph (VŽM)

In the 18th century, Vilnius was called the Jerusalem of the North and this is the merit of one of the greatest Jewish thinkers of all times, Solomon Zalman Elijahu, also known as the Vilna Gaon.

Until his death, he devoted most of his time to studying of Torah and editing the Talmud. He thought that religion could be understood by gaining an understanding of the surrounding world; therefore, he was interested in geography, mathematics and other secular sciences. Most of his life was spent in the Great Synagogue of Vilnius and a building on Žydų Street. Its location is now marked by a monument.

In fact, the Gaon did not establish a religious school. He lived a very aesthetic and private life, took no important position in the community, took almost no part in public discussions and his writings were only published after his death thanks to his children.

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