By Immanuel Etkes, Jeffrey Green
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Extra info for The Gaon of Vilna: The Man and His Image
To be expert in all twenty-four books [of the Bible,] with their vocalization and cantilation. And above their army [should be] the banner of grammar, . . and after that he commanded that the six Orders of the Mishnah should be familiar in his [the student’s] mouth, with generalizations and explanations. . Then he admonished [us] about the way to study in the sea of the Talmud, . . stipulating that the study must be directed toward truth; it must hate raising artiﬁcial difﬁculties; it acknowledges the truth, .
The Gaon also entirely embodied the highest level of piety. He withdrew from all the delights of the world and immersed himself in Torah and the commandments. His study was for its own sake, and for that reason he was graced with revelations of the secrets of the Torah. However, 34 ha-gaon he-hasid in this matter he adopted an original approach: he rejected the proposals of maggidim to reveal the mysteries of the Torah to him, and he did not value highly the secrets of Torah that were revealed to him by the ascent of the soul.
In this book, the ﬁrst programmatic work of the Haskalah movement in Russia, Levinsohn took pains to prove that the aims of Haskalah were consistent with Jewish tradition, and that its very roots could be traced back to that tradition. Arguing this point, Levinsohn cited a long list of Jewish leaders of the past who had not been averse to secular studies, notwithstanding their prowess as men of Torah. In this list Levinsohn included the Gaon of Vilna, relying on the above-cited testimony of Rabbi Barukh of Shklov.
The Gaon of Vilna: The Man and His Image by Immanuel Etkes, Jeffrey Green