Shalom


Vilna Gaon     Rabbi Kook

Welcome to Litvak Life, such as it is, or was, before the damage done.

The period of understanding begins with the Vilna Gaon who started the journey to Jerusalem, and Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook who completed it.

Volume 1

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1870’s Turn against Russian regime – Revolutionary – more activist than intellectual

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Lithuania is under industrial but Jews were over represented as workers. Vilna Jews were the proles – developed a class consciousness earlier.

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Jews tended to work in smaller factories

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Jewish workers are working almost exclusively for Jewish bosses

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Oct 1897 – Bund Founded

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Bund = alliance
Bunden = bound together
Arkady Kremer – Father of the Bund – wrote “On Agitation” a pamphlet in Russian

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Bund – a continuation of the “Haskalah” for the working class

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Hersh Lekert – Shoe maker in Vilna took revenge for Bund strikers he became hero

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Jewish workers doubly persecuted as Jews and as workers


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Russian Socialist Democratic Labor Party

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January 1905 – Failed first revolution to October 1905 – Czar offers constitution

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Bund and Zionists are arch rivals

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1905 Vilna
20% Orthodox
40% Bund
40% Zionists

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D’OR – Here
D’ORTUN – There

Bundists we’re here make it better for here D’OR

Zionists we’re there they say leave and make a better life in Jerusalem D’ORTUN




Volume 2


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Torah L’Shma = “Amateur Torah” “Torah for it’s own sake”
No ulterior motive.

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Musar Movement Rabbi Salanter continue + deviated
Israel Lipkin of Salant 1810-1883 He was a student of Salanter Student of Goan lived in Vilna Remlliss Yeshiva


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Yeshiva paid for by craftsmen
1850 he moved to Kovno, he latter lived in Germany and Paris

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Miracle stories Saintly stories

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1840 while in Vilna he writes “Egaritin Musar” or “The Letter of Ethics”

1 Fear of Punishment

2 Fear of greatness of G-D (Awe)

“To know what is good is easy, to do good is hard”


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“If only the greatest man would do what the simplest man knows”

Fear (of G-D)

“Constant war between lust and reason”

Lust

Reason

Also the “Spirit of impurity” “Force of habit”

Introspection

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Study of Torah is not enough, in order to change you must penetrate your subconscious levels.


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Nigonim of Musar are said to bring you into a state of fear (awe)

To do this you must go to a separate place – They formed a Musar House – called upon followers to form Musar groups-

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Most extreme “Novaredok Yeshiva” took Musar to the level of a sect – “If you work you do not believe in G-D because G-D will provide.


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They went to extreme to break ego

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“The wise person forsees the consequences, the stupid person just acts

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Volume 3


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France 16

Jewish Enlightenment beagn second half of the 18th century in Germany

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1830’s 1840’s Russian Haskalah

Moses Mendelsohn father of German Haskalah

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A Maskil is an enlightener.

Moses Mendelsohn translates Bible into German with Hebrew letters.

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Moses Mendelsohn modern commentary called B’Yur

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1881 Edict of toleration Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria gives Jews freedom by proclamation.

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Haskalah is one generation tradition.

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Maskalim are self taught.

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Big cities in Galicia are Krakow and Lvov.


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Mordechai Aaron Ginsburg, Vilna 1790-1841 Vision of Jews and Non-Jews commingling.
First modern Jewish schools in Vilna 1840’s.

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“Taharah Ha Kodesh”
1847 Maskalim of Vilna form their own Synagogue
“Purification of the Holy”
“Chor Shul” or Choir Shul
Sermon in German


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Architecture of Synagogue is neo-oriental.

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“Parchatza Phae(?)” “Flowers of the North” Maskalim periodical

First Hebrew newspaper “Ha Carmel”

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Lithuanian Maskalim revive Hebrew as a modern language

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1842-1880’s Max Lillenthal hired by Russian government to spread modern Hebrew Schools


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Czar Nicholas I implements these schools “to wean the Jews off the Talmud”

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Russian Government created two state Yeshivas, one in Vilna

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Yehuda Leab Gordon “Yalag” Great Hebrew poet

“Be a man in your going out in the street and a Jew in your tent”.


Volume 4


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Rabbi Israel Bal Shem from ”Pepolia(?)”.

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Would manipulate the name for healing

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Write amulet combination of the name

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What looked like?

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Rossman “In quest of the historic Bal Shem Tov”

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1648 massacres JNews killed due to alliances with Poles

Class Warfare


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BST – Salaried position
BST – Faith healer began preaching
He saw himself as a “intersesgone(?)” of the whole Jewish people.

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BST renounced the asceticism

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Devakut means cleaving to G-D

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Highest level of joyous mystical experience

Praying with ecstasy “DEVAYKUT”

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Word or letter mysticism “Mitnagid”


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Every letter of the Torah has infinite significance.

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Torah Lishana “Torah for its own sake”

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Study for mystical experience rather than content

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Worship through the physical

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Kavanah – intent

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Chasidim pray late
If you do not have the proper Kavanah you can’t pray


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“Anti Nominian” against the law to pray

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BST disiple was Dov Baer of Mezerich The Magid/The Preacher

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Saklov

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Gaon orders excommunication of Chasidim

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Immanence / Is G-D present.
(Existing or remaining within; inherent: believed in a God immanent in humans. Restricted entirely to the mind; subjective)
Transcendental / Is G-D (Unknowable(?))
Philosophy.
Concerned with the a priori or intuitive basis of knowledge as independent of experience.
Asserting a fundamental irrationality or supernatural element in experience.
Surpassing all others; superior.
Beyond common thought or experience; mystical or supernatural.

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“There is no place devoid of him”
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1792 Jews of Vilna burn Chasidic books
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Reb Chaim of Voloshin disciple of Gaon sees Chasidim as okay but misguided wrote “Soul of Life” “Nefesh Ha Chayim”
Also established the Voloshin Yeshiva 1804 funded by societies of all Jews common

Volume 5

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Wolfe Getamin –King 13 – 14th century
Founded Vilna
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Lithuania last pagan kingdom
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1386 Jajelu and Jadwitz King of Lithuania married Polish Queen converts to Catholicism
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1569 Poland and Lithuania merge
1777 Union of Lublin
Litvak is any of the above territories

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Divided by Russia Prussia Austria-Hungary
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1772-1918 No Polish or Lithuanian state
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Yiddish began in 10th 11th century
Mixture of German / Hebrew / Aramaic
Vilna made up of 40% Jewish/40% Polish/20% Other
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Shabatai Cohen The Schach Great Rabbi of Vilna 1600’s

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Council of Communities
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Vilna Gaon
Elijah Ben Shlomo Zalman 1720 – 1797 born in Seltz
Private Scholar
Shmuel Avigdor (Shmuel the Last) was Rabbi of Vilna at time of the Gaon
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Gaon means scholar Glory also / A great Rabbi Scholar 8th to 10th century was the Gaonic Period

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HaGaon HaChasid of Vilna
Chasid means pious ones torah study and piety were revered in HaGaon, known for breath of his knowledge
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“The Gaon of Vilna Man and his Image” Emmanuel Etkes
Louis Ginsberg (JTS) wrote on the Gaon
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Gaon believed Halacha should be based on the Talmud
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Breath
Method
Innovations
Study Secular
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Value of secular studies was to enhance the knowledge of the Torah
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He believed a Magidim (teller of secrets) called to tell secrets but he wanted to learn on his own
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Highest way of knowledge is by study itself not by revealation

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“Beware of anyone who says Judaism says this, because Judaism says many things”
Chasidism emerged in 1740’s in Podolia with Bal Shem Tov
Chasidism renounced asceticism
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Gaon interested in getting down to the deepest meanings not in publicizing his writings
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Melitza: writing using biblical quotes
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Evil speech is greaest sin

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Torah and awe

His Torah study was a spiritual experience

My dear sister in the next world I will have plenty of time to talk to you.






Words and images within this site ©  Richard Alan Fox  2005