The Gaon of Vilna and His Messianic Vision by Arie Morgenstern
In 1990 a document was discovered in Poland, according to which the Gaon of Vilna (1720 1797) stopped in Amsterdam on his way to Erez Israel. Research based on this astonishing find, detailed in this book, brought about a chain of dramatic discoveries that fundamentally altered our knowledge of the historic figure of the Gaon of Vilna. One such discovery reveals that the journey to Erez Israel transpired in the year 1778, three years prior to 1781 the year set as the end time by the kabbalists of that generation, including the Gaon of Vilna himself.
This book demonstrates that the Gaon of Vilna traveled to Erez Israel in order to compose a new Shulhan arukh, a final halakhic code that would bring an end to halakhic disputes within the Jewish people. In this way he hoped to ensure the Messiah s arrival in the year 1781. Mysteriously, the Gaon of Vilna abandoned his dream, reporting that Heaven had prevented him. By following in the Gaon s footsteps, The Gaon of Vilna and His Messianic Vision uncovers the cause of his aborted journey and the revolutionary approach to redemption that the Gaon subsequently developed.
The main discovery of this book is that despite the grave disillusionment and trauma that the Sabbatean crisis (1666) had inflicted, a new awakening for messianic redemption ensued in the eighteenth century. Some kabbalists continued to insist vehemently that redemption was imminent and that one needed only to find new ways to assure its fulfillment through: mystical kavvanot, ascents of the soul, and cleavage to God. But others declared that redemption can be attained only through mystical groups that would achieve fraternity and unity in Erez Israel, and exert a theurgic influence. One of the most influential figures in this movement was Rabbi Immanuel Hai Ricchi (1688–1743).
Ricchi performed various end-reckonings and geared them to a forty-one-year period that approximated his own time—from 1740 to 1781. He was not alone in this pursuit. Kabbalist like Rabbi Hayyim ben Attar , Moses Hayyim Luzzatto , kabbalists from the Kloyz of Brody, and hundreds of Hassidim in 1777, ascent to Eretz Israel out of messianic motives. We also discovered that the Gaon of Vilna was on his way in the year 1778, and even the quest for the Ten Tribes, which, according to tradition, would be discovered and returned at the End of Days, was also a part of that movement.
This book, inspired by newly discovered archive findings, sheds new light on entire eighteenth-century Jewish history, and especially on the most complex, historically unique persona of the Gaon of Vilna (1720-1797), who perceived himself as having a messianic mission: to reveal the Torah as it had been handed down to Moses at Sinai and writing the final code that would lead directly to the imminent redemption of the Jewish people.