The Gaon of Vilna: The Man and His Image

By Immanuel Etkes; Jeffrey M. Green | Go to book overview

2
The Vilna Gaon and Haskalah

THE VILNA GAON VIEWED AS
A MASKIL BY THE MASKILIM

The cornerstone of the image of the Vilna Gaon as one of the forefathers of Haskalah in eastern Europe was laid by Rabbi Barukh of Shklov (1744–1808), also known as Barukh Schick, one of the pioneers of Haskalah in eastern Europe. In the introduction to his Hebrew translation of Euclid's Elements, Rabbi Barukh claims that, when he visited the revered sage in the winter of 1777–78, the latter advocated secular studies: “I heard from the holy one that, to the extent that a person is lacking in knowledge of secular subjects, he will lack one hundredfold in the wisdom of the Torah. For the Torah and secular knowledge are bound together. … He commanded me to translate whatever possible of the secular subjects into our holy tongue in order to recover what they [the

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