Anthology Topics:Cruelty  2 Erev Rav  3 Father  4 The First Man  5 Forefathers  6 Heretics 7 The Holy Temple  8 LimbsLove of G-d  10 Man  11 The Nations of the World 12 Prophecy 13 Reproof  14 Reward and Punishment 15 Suffering  16 Swiftness  17 Torah   18 Torah Study  19 The World to ComeB”H

gaonpicB”H Excerpts from An Anthology of the Gaon by

Rabbi Moshe Zuriel {Tzuriel}

A Selection of sayings of the Vilna Gaon regarding beliefs, extracted from most of the writings of his disciples, of those faithful to him, and from some of his own writings.

This Anthology is Not Appropriate For Non-Jewish
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Torah Study

The Major Purpose of Torah Study is to do and to Observe

Commentary on Proverbs 4:10; 5:7; 13:25; 16:8; 23:26.

The purpose of our involvement in Torah is to inform man of the way to worship HaShem – to Proverbs 23:26.

“But if he is neither G-d-fearing nor is he afraid of sin, though he learn the same things a number of times, he will not locate [the precise point of halakha], for he does not study in order to know what to be careful of, and every matter that is not the responsibility of a person does not occupy his thoughts – to Proverbs 1:7.

This world is called “night”, darkness, and the Torah is light, to illuminate the way for man – to Proverbs 7:9.

Sometimes one learns a good deal, but it is full of leanings towards honor and pride… and though he has learned a lot, it turns out that he has learnt only a little in G-d-fearingness, a little which is better than the entire treasure he has amassed – to Proverbs 15:16.

The Relationship Between the Torah and Mitzvot

“When one does Mitzvot (commandments) without conscious thought ( that he does not understand the underlying reasons) the “nefesh” is not good. For the nefesh does not gain pleasure from this because it does not know the root (of the matter) and acts without desire -on Proverbs 19:2

The Mitzvot are like perfume that come from time to time, and the study of Torah is like bread that we need it continually – on Proverbs 4:4,19:2

“Pdut” is when the punishment that was decreed on a person is acted out on someone else that comes in his place. “Hatzala” is the possibility to negate the attribute of (harsh) justice entirely. With the power of prayer we effect just “Pdut” and with the power of Torah, “Hatzala” . -Commentary to Brachot 6b the heading -Madua Bati ve’ein Ish, page 12

The Relationship Between Torah and Fear of Heaven

If a man does not learn Torah, he will not have the fear of heaven. -On Proverbs 19:2

Better is a little Torah with the fear of heaven, than much without fear of heaven. -on Proverbs 15:16, 16:8,17:1

“Better it is to learn a little and calmly and for the sake of the mitzvah of learning and to continually review, than to learn much with strife and for the sake of quarreling” -on Proverbs 17:1

The rain comes to the entire land equally, but its effect depends on the recipient. If it was sowed wheat, it will sprout wheat. If it was sowed a poisonous plant, it will sprout a poisonous plant. So too the Torah; if his heart is good, his fear will become greater. If his heart is bad, he will fail all the more so, when pondering it and the resentment within his heart will grow. On Proverbs 19:9 and in his commentary to Brachot 8a

“So too in Torah, a person must first remove the impurities (lit. the dross) from his heart ,that is, to depart from evil…for when there are impurities in a man’s heart than the “Imrat” [sayings of Torah] becomes “Mi-arat” [The curse of]. -on Proverbs 25:4

“One has to remove every day from one’s soul the spoiling of one’s character traits. For the matter of Torah to the soul is like the matter of rain to the earth. That it sprouts life giving produce and poisonous produce. So too in Torah after one’s learning one must remove from himself the waste products in the fear of sin and in good deeds. -on Proverbs 24:31

And so too is it brought in the name of the Gaon of Vilna, the order of daily study -“Books of Mussar several times each day”. -Maasei Rav, Subsection 60-61

On Pardes=(Pshat[ the simple meaning of the text],Remez [the hinted meaning of the text] Drash [the meaning of the text alluded to by the unusual nature of the words] Sod [the secret underlying meaning of the text]

Torah has in it, Pshat and Drash (outside and roads) and so too Remez and Sod (= the entrances of the gates and the city inwards) -On Proverbs 1:21,7:9,30:19 on Song of Songs 3:2

All the words of the Torah and the numerical values and the combinations, are all names of the Holy One Blessed be He -on Song of Songs 5:10 (see Maharsha on Brachot 21a)

In the Torah there are seventy faces to the Orally transmitted Torah and 49 faces to the written Torah -On Song of Songs 2:4

By means of the inquiries (Drash) of the sages of blessed memory ( the 13 hermeneutical principles) that they used for explaining the text – see later on concerning “The Orally transmitted Torah” we analyze what lays behind the simple meaning of the text. But Remez (abbreviations and numerical values of words and letters) is the introduction to the Sod. And the essential matter of all is the Sod. -On Proverbs 1:20


One that learns with the desire of “If you will seek it as silver and search it out as buried treasures” (Proverbs 2:4), his reward will be that he remembers his studies. -On Proverbs 2:10

If one learns and doesn’t continually review in order to recall all that he learns, it is only considered an act of fraud, for there won’t remain in his hands anything. -On Proverbs 12:27

He that learns by fraud, meaning that he doesn’t know the roots of the laws (from the Gemara) just the laws in brief (from the books of those that collect and summarize the laws…) in order to show that he knows all the laws. This will make him an impoverished man , for in the end he will forget even them, because he doesn’t know their roots (just as it is said in the Yerushalmi Brachot 5:1 Any person that logically analyzes his studies, does not quickly forget”) -On Proverbs 10:4

In the World to Come when he goes there, they give him 180 days to expound Torah in public, Torah that he learned in this world; and all the righteous come and hear him. -On Proverbs 31:30

Review of Studies

On Proverbs 5:7, 7:4,1, 12:27, 16:23, 18:20

When a person stops from learning, first of all he forgets the secrets of Torah and afterwards Remez( the hinted meaning of the Torah) and afterwards Drush (the meaning of the text alluded by the unusual nature of the words) and afterwards Pshat (the simple meaning) -On Proverbs 7:9

“And so too in Torah, if he learns and does not continually review in order to always remember what he learns, it is only a fraud, for there won’t remain in his hands anything” -On Proverbs 12:27

“And so too in Torah, Better, is it to learn a little and calmly and for the sake of the mitzvah of learning, and to continually review, then to learn much with strife and for the sake of quarreling” -On Proverbs 17:1

One that learns for the sake of the goal (that is, “as the Creator commanded me”, Rashi on Taanit 7a) he reviews continually and finds reason in it. -On Proverbs 21:5

He that learns much and does not continually review and wants to gather much, “will starve”, for there won’t remain in his hand anything. -On Proverbs 19:15

Torah should be Studied Specifically by Expression of the Lips

Torah needs to be studied by thought, speech and by action -On Proverbs 3:3

“To understand one thing from another one must read it by mouth…and by reading the wisdom by mouth the precise points and details of it will be revealed- on Proverbs 2:6 (And so added his student Rabbi M.M. of Shklov:” For HaShem will grant wisdom, from his mouth knowledge and understanding that is to say “from his mouth” of the person that studies, from what he brings out from his mouth, HaShem will give him knowledge that he will know the matter clearly” -on Proverbs 2:6, also see on Isaiah 1:2)

To Learn in a Thorough Way and more on Effort and Burden in the Learning of Torah

“And the stomach of the wicked shall be lacking” , these are they that swallow much Torah without studying to understand it precisely’ for their intention is only to become great in the eyes of people and therefore they collect much; and at the end they will forget and won’t be left with anything On Proverbs 13:25 17:1 19:5 20:21 21:5 29:20

He who exerted and troubled himself when learning even if it is a little for it is impossible to learn much, he will not forget at all rather more will be added to him. But he that learns without exertion, even if he learned much, will quickly forget. On Proverbs 13:11

The Torah is only Acquired by Suffering

On Proverbs 12:1

Even though a man exerts himself to teach Torah to others (nevertheless) what he achieves through his burdenous efforts, those that hear him , will not be partners with him in the merit in regards to his exertion On Proverbs 5:17

He that exerted himself and pained himself in his studies will receive much more reward than others that learned the same thing, without having experienced pain On Proverbs 14:10

But one that teaches others will receive reward both in regards to what he has learned and in regards to what others have learned from him On Proverbs 18:21

Hashem set man’s nature to sleep in order that his soul shall go up to the Torah academy on high and there they reveal to him the secrets of Torah. And what a man can not learn in 70 years, one learns there in one hour. However, from that learning, he does not receive reward at all. Rather that this learning is the reward itself. But the Torah that he learned in the daytime (out of his exertion) brings him to the World to Come On Proverbs 19:23

For Torah one needs to seek it out and inquire it with exertion and trouble and to request from the Holy One Blessed be He, that he will help him. On Proverbs 1:28

The Agadaic parts of the Torah are compared to honey and the halachas (laws of conduct) are compared to butter which is very fatty and one does not derive it except with great burden, that one asks and breaks it down until one derives the legal ruling in a truthful manner On Isaiah 7:22

The Torah just at the beginning, the learning of it, is with great exertion; when one progresses more, already there is no exertion. On Proverbs 5:15

He that learns by fraud with the books containing short summaries of the laws without their roots, in the end will forget all of it. But the diligent that learn the short summary together with the roots, will know it all On Proverbs 10:4

He that has assets (many matters of study) but from vanity, without exertion, it will become small, for he will forget much. But he that exerted and troubled much over his study, even if little (=in quantity) for it is impossible to study much, even so it will increase; for what he studied will be (remain) in his hand and he will not forget at all. On Proverbs 13:11

The Torah is sealed and one has to understand one thing from out of another, to conceive the notion and to separate in the details. On Proverbs 1:2 and in “Chemda Genuza” which is printed at the end of the book of Proverbs

Not to Learn by an Unfit Rabbi -on Proverbs 23:6-8

Not to Teach a Student who is Not Proper

A foolish student will do the mitzvahs not in their time nor in their place. And will also explain the Torah with explanations that never existed (Were not said to Moshe at Sinai)- On Proverbs 26:1

An improper student, when he sees in his teacher even one thing that according to his knowledge he judges as not good , immediately he publicizes it among people On Proverbs 27:16


Translated for the spiritual elevation of Tzivia daughter of Dovid in the world to come. This translation was by more than one person and over a long period of time, therefore minor variations in translating styles appear here

Links to some of the other articles on this web site that portray the Gaon’s views:
* Monotheism Vs. The Outlook That Everything is G-d, by Mr. S. M. Scheinman which provides some background to the Gaon’s monotheistic beliefs.
* Divine Assistance 

Those that don’t tie their own Tzitzit – Beware!

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