The initiative for publishing the Hebrew edition of this book originated in the various events that took place to commemorate the bicentennial of the Gaon of Vilna's death. One significant experience was a week's tour of Vilna and other Jewish sites in Lithuania in which I took part, along with dozens of colleagues who study the Jews of eastern Europe and their culture. The book was published in Hebrew in Jerusalem in 1998 by Merkaz Zalman Shazar.
I am deeply grateful to my teacher, the late Yakov Katz, and to my friends and colleagues David Assaf, Yisrael Bartal, Ada Rapoport-Albert, Elhanan Reiner, and Yisrael Yuval for reading the chapters of this manuscript and making useful comments. I would also like to mention Nehama Feintuch and Ido Werker, my students at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem who served as my research assistants and helped me greatly with their diligence and intelligence.
I would like to thank Stanley Holwitz and David Gill of the University of California Press for leading the production of this book. I am espe-