Waves Vilna Gaon Sharon

  • Issue: April 1997
  • Designer: M. Sermoneta
  • Stamp size: 25.7 x 40 mm
  • Plate no.: 300
  • Sheet of 15 stamps Tabs: 5
  • Printers: E. Lewin-Epstein Ltd.
  • Method of printing: Offset

The figure of The "Vilna Gaon", also known by acronym: HA-GRA, meaning Ha-Gaon Rabbi Elijah, is a unique phenomenon in Jewish history. He is the only spiritual leader in modern Jewish history given the honorary title of "Gaon (genius), and exceptionally supported by the Jewish community, although he did not hold any official position.

The "Vilna Gaon" was a man of unique learning and his spiritual legacy is still valid to this day. Ha-Gra was erudite in Torah, Kabbalah, astronomy, geometry, algebra, geography and Hebrew grammar - having an interest in all these disciplines.

Rabbi Elijah was born on the first day of Passover, 1720, in the village of Seletz, Grodno province, and died in Vilna on the third day of Succoth, 1797.

He came from a well-known rabbinical and scholarly family, and when he was six and a half years old, gave a homily in the synagogue of Vilna. In his speech he answered questions posed by his rabbi. Not taking into account the three months he studied with Rabbi Moses Margalioth of Keidany (author of Pnei Moshe) at the age of seven, he mainly studied on his own.

His exceptional diligence became legendary. Even after his marriage he chose to live in seclusion in a small house outside town learning day and night (his sons claimed that he slept only two hours a night). During a certain period, he used to wander the countryside on an "exile" of his own. Wherever he went, people were greatly impressed by the depth and scope of his knowledge.

At the age of forty he began teaching Torah in a small hut near his house where he spent hours. His disciples wrote down his commentaries and clarifications on the texts. During this same period he became involved in public life. He publicly defended Rabbi Jonathan Eybeschuetz accused of following Shabbetai Zvi, because he felt that the charges were ungrounded. On the other hand, he was struggling against Hasidism, believing that this movement conflicted with traditional Judaism. Prior to 1783 he had planned to emigrate to Eretz-lsrael. His farewell letter to his family was a kind of spiritual testament. For unknown reasons he never reached Eretz-lsrael. The cemetery in Vilna, where HA-GRA was buried, has been cleared, and his grave, together with other seven graves next to him, moved twice. It was laid to its final rest in the present cemetery of Vilna.

Rabbi Elijah was amazingly creative. He wrote commentaries on the Bible, the Talmud, Tannaitic Midrashim, the Zohar, Shulhan Aruch, and studies on Hebrew grammar and several general sciences.

He brilliantly suggested correct readings of biblical and rabbinical texts which were later proven valid by scholarly studies.

All of his writings were published only after his death - some written by his own hand and others by his sons or pupils. Dozens of books were written in later years elaborating on his writings.

HA-GRA adhered strictly to the Halakha and therefore was strongly opposed to philosophical thought and very critical about allegorical commentaries. He was also a bitter opponent of the Haskalah Movement which emerged during his lifetime.

He was both special and unique, truly one of a kind.

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The "Vilna Gaon" HA-GRA (1720 - 1797)