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Rabbi Eliyahu of Vilna - The Vilna Gaon 1720 1797 The Gra popularly referred to as the Vilna Gaon was born in VilnaLithuania in 1720 His full name was Rabbi Eliyahu of Vilna The word Gaon means genius and that is proper for The Vilna Gaon The Vilna Gaon was probably the most influential Jewish leader in modern history The Gaon was even amazing as a child at age 7 he gave a shiur in the great synagogue in Vilna By age 10 he had already advanced to the point where he no longer needed a teacher and was studying by himself to acquire the knowledge of torah in both its revealed and mystical ways To the Gaon limud haTorah was very important His greatness in learning was unsurpassable The Gaons son testified that for fifty years his father did not sleep for more than two hours in a twenty-four hour period Every minute of his like was devoted to torah study When he was still a young man Rabbi Eliyahu accepted upon himself galus self-imposed exile a not unheard of practice at that time in which he wandered from community to community as a beggar This lasted for a period of some years whereupon he returned to the city of Vilna Although offered many jobs as a Rabbi or to start a yeshiva he never excepted Despite efforts on his part to hide his great righteousness and phenomenal knowledge he was soon famed as a great tzadik and Torah scholar At the age of 35 he was approached by one of the leading Rabbis of that time Rabbi Yonason Eybschutz to act as an intermediary in the conflict between him and another great Rabbi Rabbi Yakov Emden He cleared a new path to Talmud study focusing on getting a
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