Stamp: Vilna Gaon, Rabbi Elijah Ben Solomon Zalman
The stamp, issued in April 1997, features a portrait of Rabbi Elijah Ben Solomon Zalman (1720-1797), in rabbinical attire, holding a book, presumably a copy of the Pentateuch. The tab bears his family name in Hebrew and English. He was known by the acronym Ha-GRA meaning "The Genius". Rabbi Elijah was one of the greawtest spiritual and intellectual leaders of Jewry in modern times, the only one in this period of history given the title of gaon, "genius." He is also called "Vilna Gaon" after the city of Vilna (formerly in Poland, now capital of the Lithuanina republic), or "Elijah Gaon." Born in Seletz, Grodno province, he came from a well-known rabbinical and scholarly family and showed unusual gifts from an early age. At the age of six and a half, he gave a formal address in the synagogue of Vilna, answering questions put by the rabbis. At seven he studied three months with a rabbi and thereafter mostly on his own, so remained unifluenced by the general talmudic education of his day. Later he travelled throughout Poland and Germany visiting important Jewish communities, and subsequently settled in Vilna where he was generously maintained by the community board, indicating the high esteem in which he was held. His exceptional diligence in study became legendary. Rabbi Elijah was a creative writer and his works include man commentaries. His importance in Jewish thought stems from the vast range of subjects with which he dealt, to the extent that there was no Jewish or general topic which had a bearing on Judaism on which he did not comment, briefly or extensively.
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