Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin – The Main Disciple of the Vilna Gaon

The gaon Rabbi Chaim was born on Sivan 8, 5509 in the small town of Volozhin. The son of Rabbi Yitzchak, a well-respected and wealthy man, Rabbi Chaim became the main disciple of Rabbi Eliyahu of Vilna (the Vilna Gaon Zatzal), from whom he learned the essentials of Torah and sanctity. Rabbi Chaim also learned with the gaon Rabbi Raphael Hamburg Zatzal, the author of Torat Yekutiel. Rabbi Chaim first served as the Rav of Vilkomir, where he refused to accept a salary. However the Jews of the city made his life difficult and caused him many problems. Once on Shabbat Mevarchim, a congregant asked him when the molad would occur. In his innocence, Rabbi Chaim said that he would have to check a calendar because he didn’t know. At that point people began to disparage him to such an extent that he was forced to leave Vilkomir and return to Volozhin, his birthplace. There he informed the leaders of the community that he would only serve as their Rav if he wasn’t paid. He also warned his students that whoever served as a Rav must know when the molad would occur. Rabbi Chaim garnered the attention of the Vilna Gaon, who selected him to establish a yeshiva. Thus Rabbi Chaim opened the famous Volozhin yeshiva, which from its very outset became famous throughout the land, a place where thousands of men flocked to study Torah. The yeshiva illuminated the Torah world, and from it emerged tremendously gifted students, Torah giants who brought light to the world through their Torah and sanctity.

Rabbi Chaim’s life came to an end on Sivan 14, 5581, and his soul ascended to the celestial academy. May the memory of the tzaddik be blessed.




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