1720 - 1797 (19 Tishrei 5558 3rd day Chol Hamoed Succot) ELIJAH BEN SOLOMON ZALMAN (the Vilna Gaon)
The greatest talmudic mind of his time. He had mastered the Bible and started on the Talmud at the age of six. Though he preferred to live in seclusion, his reputation grew until he was known as the unofficial spiritual head of Eastern European Jewry. Feeling that the Hasidim leaned toward Sabbetianism and that they were dangerously anti-intellectual, he issued a ban and excommunicated its followers. The group which opposed the Hasidim became known as the Mitnagdim (Misnagdim) or the opponents. As a scholar, he pointed the way to a systematic study of the Torah in its entirety, not just those sections relevant to practical life. He wrote over 70 commentaries on all aspects of Jewish life.