Bela Taraseiskey, The Gaon of Vilna, ©2006, acrylic on canvas, 40 x 24 inches
Elijah Ben Solomon Zalman (1720-1797), was known as the Gaon of Vilna (the Genius). He embodied the glory of erudition of Lithuanian Jews. He wrote works in all spheres of Jewish science: from the commentaries of the Bible to Hebrew grammar, from Kabbalah to biblical geography. Gaon's greatest achievement was editing and commentating on the Babylonian Talmud. After the scholar's death, all editions of this Talmud were published with Gaon's notes. Gaon's analytical method of the Talmud was later taught by Gaon's pupil, Hayim from Volozhin (1749-1821) in a specially founded yeshiva, which was attended by students from Lithuania and abroad. Hayim from Volozhin turned the traditional religious school into a spiritual academy. The yeshiva in Volozhin was the first among the world famous Lithuanian yeshivas - Mir's, Telsh, Radun, Ponevezh and others. Some of them continue their work in the USA and Israel.