The Vilna Gaon and the Mitnagdim
as Seen by the Hasidim
The organized struggle against Hasidism, which began in Vilna in 5532 (1772), continued for about thirty years. During that time the Hasidim were the objects of persecution and oppression. Community leaders who took part in the campaign against Hasidism passed ordinances that led to the social ostracism of the Hasidim, interfered with their sources of livelihood, prohibited people from eating meat that they had slaughtered, and prevented them from holding prayers in the manner they wished. It is easy to imagine the suffering and humiliation of the Hasidim in the areas where they were persecuted. 1 How did they respond?
In discussing the response of the Hasidim, I do not refer specifically to the actions they took, but primarily to their response on the cognitive level. How did they explain to themselves the fact that the leaders of important communities, including rabbis and dayyanim, viewed them as