The Gaon of Vilna: The Man and His Image

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

5
Rabbi Ḥayyim of Volozhin's
Response to Hasidism

In early 5563 (autumn 1802) Rabbi Ḥayyim of Volozhin published an open letter to all “lovers of Torah” in Lithuania. 1 In that letter, he described the low condition to which study of Torah had sunk and called to the public to voluntarily promote the renewed flourishing of Torah study. The direct purpose of this call was to mobilize support for the new yeshiva that Rabbi Ḥayyim had just established in Volozhin, but it was also a call for the renewal of Torah study throughout Lithuania.

Rabbi Ḥayyim's letter and the establishment of the yeshiva in Volozhin were the first salient manifestations of his new status as leader of the Mitnagdim in Lithuania. This was not an official post but rather leadership status that drew its authority and significance from his personal greatness. Rabbi Ḥayyim achieved this status because he was regarded as the leading disciple of the Vilna Gaon. Nevertheless, in this letter Rabbi

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