Process of Redemption Envisioned by the Vilna Ga'on's Disciples
The Vilna Ga’on, an extraordinary Talmudic scholar, inspired in his disciples a sense that he was a supernatural phenomenon, with a messianic mission to redeem the Jewish nation by disseminating the true knowledge of Torah and by settling the Land of Israel. Although he himself never succeeded in immigrating to the Land, many of his disciples did so. They had a profound sense that the End of Days was approaching, and they developed the doctrine that redemption was not contingent on repentance but would come at its appointed time no matter what; repentance bore only on how it was to come about and on whether it might be accelerated. They likewise regarded as no longer applicable the prohibition in the “Three Oaths” against efforts on Israel’s part to hasten the End (“ascending the wall”). Rejecting the traditional emphasis on passivity, they held that the awakening above (i.e., God’s redemptive actions) could be triggered by the awakening from below (human actions directed toward hastening redemption), such as settling the Land of Israel and rebuilding it in order to “raise the Shekhinah from its ashes”.
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