Page 92 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 6 (1947-1948)

Basic HTML Version

JEWI SH BOOK ANNUAL
82
the prayers have been collected and printed with the text of the
week-day and Sabbath prayers. Another collection of notes and
comments on the Prayer Book, under the name of
Minhat Eliyahu
,
was published in Jerusalem in 1927 by Elijah Landa, a descend-
ant of the Gaon, together with a bibliography and a biography,
and other selections of the Gaon’s writings.
Maaseh Torah
is a volume attributed to the Gaon, who dictated
it from his sick bed to one of his disciples. I t is a series of mne-
monic lists of Talmudic statements in which numbers are used.
The original manuscript contains numbers one to thirteen and
also number seventy, but many additions to this were supplied
by Abraham, the Gaon’s son. The number ten was published in
Lemberg, 1864, and the complete work together with many
additions was issued in 1864 and 1884 in Warsaw by Noah
Hayyim of Kobryn.
There are numerous legends about the Gaon’s mathematical
genius, which became manifest early in his childhood. I t is said
that out of his own ingenuity he became familiar with the rules
of mathematics and its manifold branches, including also astron-
omy. I t is also told that the Gaon studied anatomy and at one
time contemplated to devote himself to the study of medicine.
The principle which he advocated for himself and for his disciples
was that a thorough knowledge of the Torah can be achieved
only when one is familiar with all the sciences, since only through
them could one arrive at an exact and clear understanding of the
Book of Books. His scientific knowledge was naturally limited
to what he could derive from rabbinic references and from his
own observation and ingenuity. He suggested to Baruch of
Szklow that he translate Euclid into Hebrew, as the latter testifies
in his introduction to the book. He himself also composed a work
on trigonometry, under the name of
Ay il Meshulash
in which he
included about 400 mathematical rules. This was first published
in Wilno in 1834 by Samuel of Luknik with notes by Jacob Moses
of Slonim. A large work on astronomy, referred to by his disciples,
remained in manuscript and its whereabouts are unknown.
Another work on the calendar also remained unpublished. His
work on Hebrew grammar,
Dikduk Eliyahu
, was published in
Wilno in 1833 and reprinted with an extensive commentary by
Aryeh Loeb Gordon in Wilno in 1874. A reprint of this work was
also issued in Brooklyn in 1947.
Although extremely modest and retiring in his personal life,
often to the degree of self-effacement, the Gaon manifested an
independence of spirit and great courage in dealing with tradi-
tional interpretations of the classic texts in Jewish literature. He
did not hesitate to interpret the Mishnah in a different manner