Page 87 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 6 (1947-1948)

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GREEN S TONE ---- THE BOOKS OF ELIJAH GAON
77
Mendel of Haslowitch, we find a reference which indicates that
the Gaon hoped that some of his works would be published.
Menahem Mendel relates in the introduction to his edition of the
Gaon’s commentary on the Book of Proverbs, that he had copied
the author’s comments from actual dictation and that the latter
expressed the desire that this work should be the first to appear
in print, presumably because of its lofty religious and moral
lessons. This wish was realized in the publication of this work,
during the first year after the Gaon’s death (Szklow, 1789).
Later authorities found many defects in this edition. The com-
mentary extends only to chapter 29:28, the last two chapters
having been completed by the editor from other sources prepared
by the Gaon.
Within the limitations of the Hebrew and Aramaic languages,
the only ones known by him in addition to Yiddish, the Gaon’s
interest extended to every nook and corner of the vast literature
extant in these languages. He applied his critical acumen and
inexhaustible industry with the same zeal to the most obscure
products of tannaitic or kabbalistic content as to the established
texts of Bible and Talmud. There is no record of any responsum
of his on a legal or religious subject, nor do we know of any homi-
letic work by him, except for his notes on some midrashim or
aggadic passages in the Talmud. The only popular treatise
written by the Gaon is a letter to his wife. I t was written in
Koenigsberg, when he was on his way to his unrealized visit to
the Holy Land. In it he admonishes her about the proper bringing
up of their children and stresses especially her duty toward his
aging mother. The letter was first published in Minsk in 1836
under the title .of
Alim li-Terufah.
I t was reprinted numerous
times, often with a Yiddish translation.
First among the editors of the Gaon’s works were his sons,
Judah Loeb and Abraham, and his son-in-law, Moses of Pinsk.
Judah Loeb died in 1816 in the prime of life. Abraham became
a distinguished scholar in his own right. He had studied with his
father Bible and Talmud. Moses’ admiration for his father-in-
law led him to devote much of his energies to editing many of the
Gaon’s manuscripts. Among the latter’s disciples who busied
themselves with preparing his manuscripts for the press, were
Hayyim of Volozhin and his brother, Solomon Zalman, for whom
the Gaon had a deep affection; Rabbi Meir of Wilno; Menahem
Mendel of Haslowitch and several others. A grandson of the
Gaon, Jacob Moses of Slonim, is responsible for the publication
of several of the works of the Gaon. I t was he who apparently
compiled a list of the Gaon’s writings, possibly identical with
the
Reshimat Slonim
, often referred to by Joshua Heshel Lewin