According to this inscription, this 18th century Tanach was apparently bequeathed by the Vilna Gaon to his grandson Rabbi Yaakov Moshe of Slonim, son of Rabbi Avraham, the son of HaGr”a. Rabbi Yaakov Moshe was a prominent Torah scholar who toiled extensively to edit and publish his venerable grandfather’s legacy. The binding shall be put up for public auction next week in Kedem Auction House in Jerusalem.
It is well known that the Vilna Gaon possessed a deep-seated love for Tanach. Numerous testimonies recount that in his latter years, he devoted the majority of his study hours to learning Tanach and authoring his breathtaking commentary which is sprinkled with teachings from the Mishnah, Talmud, and Kabbalah. The following is recounted in his biography, Ma’alos Eliyahu: “In his elder years, the Gaon [devoted] all his time to learn Chumash, commencing with the beginning and proceeded to the end, to include within it all of the Oral Torah.” Harav Dovid Luria adds that “the Gr”a was fluent in this work…as he was a genius and knew how all the books of the Talmud and all compositions upon the Oral Torah were all sourced in Tanach.”
Eyewitness reports published in previous generations relate that the Vilna Gaon physically held any sefer from which he learned in his hands as an expression of his great love of Torah. One such account is presented by Rabbi Uri Yitzchak Isaac Kadesh in the name of his grandfather Rabbi Aharon, Av Beis Din of Wissoky who visited the Vilna Gaon in his study.
“He found him [the Vilna Gaon] studying the holy Torah, with a masechet Sanhedrin in his two holy hands, the Torah of truth in his mouth in clear, pleasant speech, reciting masechet Avos d’Rabbi Nosson” (Me’orei Beis Yitzchak). He adds in parentheses, “See, my brothers, how far-reaching is the power of honoring the Torah. The masechta was not lying on the table to be learned, as customary among us, but his sacred hands supported Torah from both directions—one masechta in one hand, and the other in the other hand, a symbol to the words of ‘Longevity in the right hand, and in the left…’”
As noted, there are very few remaining items known to have belonged to the Vilna Gaon or even to have been touched by his holy hands. Among the extant items is his set of Shas with his personal annotations. One volume that consisted of 5 masechtot was sold approximately eight-and-a-half years ago by Kedem Auction House for a sum of over 2.3 million shekels.
Meron Eren, Co-owner of Kedem Auction House in Jerusalem, notes that “We are privileged to have the great opportunity to reveal these sacred items that previously belonged to the Vilna Gaon, his children, grandchildren, and disciples to the Jewish public. These items were formerly held in the private collection of world-renowned collector and bibliographer Yeshayahu Vinograd z”l, who was deeply devoted to the teachings of the Vilna Gaon. This is a remarkable item of great spiritual and historic significance that many have approached us with eager requests to merely touch.”