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The Gaon of Vilna

The Man and His Image

Immanuel Etkes (Author), Jeffrey Green (Translator)

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A legendary figure in his own lifetime, Rabbi Eliahu ben Shlomo Zalman (1720-1797) was known as the "Gaon of Vilna." He was the acknowledged master of Talmudic studies in the vibrant intellectual center of Vilna, revered throughout Eastern Europe for his learning and his ability to traverse with ease seemingly opposed domains of thought and activity. After his death, the myth that had been woven around him became even more powerful and was expressed in various public images. The formation of these images was influenced as much by the needs and wishes of those who clung to and depended on them as by the actual figure of the Gaon. In this penetrating study, Immanuel Etkes sheds light on aspects of the Vilna Gaon's "real" character and traces several public images of him as they have developed and spread from the early nineteenth century until the present.
1. Ha-Gaon He-Hasid: In His Own Time and for Succeeding Generations
2. The Vilna Gaon and Haskalah
3. The Vilna Gaon and the Beginning of the Struggle against Hasidism
4. The Vilna Gaon and the Mitnagdim as Seen by the Hasidim
5. Rabbi Hayyim of Volozhin's Response to Hasidism
6. Talmudic Scholarship and the Rabbinate in Lithuanian Jewry during the Nineteenth Century
7. Torah and Yira in the Thought and Practice of the Vilna Gaon
Immanuel Etkes is Professor of Modern Jewish History at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, and author of Rabbi Israel Salanter and the Mussar Movement (1993).
"A pathbreaking book in Jewish Studies. Etkes is careful to separate the man himself from the mythic role he later came to occupy in the modern Jewish landscape. This emphasis upon 'image,' and not only upon the 'man,' gives the Etkes volume a unique and broad flavor."—David Ellenson, author of Between Tradition and Culture

"Etkes probes the image and reception of the Vilna Gaon in the movements he spawned (Haskalah) and opposed (Hasidism) and provides a sophisticated sense of the dynamism and power of historical images in forging battle lines in the highly fractious world of nineteenth-century Eastern European Jewish culture."—David N. Myers, author of Re-Inventing the Jewish Past

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