Rabbi Eliyahu, the son of Shlomo Zalman, known as the Gaon of Vilna— or by the acronym Ha-GRA, for “ha-Gaon Rabbi Eliyahu”—enjoyed exceptional authority during his lifetime. Even among his rivals the Hasidic leaders, whom he persecuted, were those who acknowledged his status as the greatest scholar of his generation and who applied to him the epithet “unique in his generation. ” In the eyes of his disciples and admirers, the Vilna Gaon was not only unique in his generation but also unparalleled in many generations. Some disciples and admirers accorded him the same status as the Sages of the Talmud, while others made the lesser comparison to the Geonim of Babylonia. They all viewed him as a kind of angel from heaven, sent by divine providence to guide his generation in the proper way of studying Torah.
It is not out of place to wonder how and why the Vilna Gaon attained