Vilna Gaon 300th anniversary medal presented to President Reuven Rivlin

"We must all stand up to those who spread hatred because we know that it never ends just with words," said Rivlin.

President Rivlin was presented with a special medallion honoring the 300th anniversary of the Vilna Gaon (photo credit: MARK NEYMAN / GPO)
President Rivlin was presented with a special medallion honoring the 300th anniversary of the Vilna Gaon
(photo credit: MARK NEYMAN / GPO)
When interviewed by The Jerusalem Post a year ago, Lithuanian Ambassador Lina Antanaviciene was bubbling with plans for the numerous cultural events that her country was going to host to mark the 300th anniversary of the birth of the Vilna Gaon, Rabbi Elijah of Vilna.
Because there are a lot of Litvaks (Lithuanian Jews) in Israel, and there are even streets that have been called after Litvak immigrants who contributed to the development of the state, the year of the Genius from Vilnius was also going to include a bilateral conference in Israel.
The ambassador also made a point when presenting her credentials to President Reuven Rivlin in September 2019 of inviting him to Vilnius for the opening of the year of the Vilna Gaon, which was scheduled for April, which had been the month of the rabbi’s birth.
Rivlin had told her at the time that she was his ambassador too, as his family had come to Jerusalem from Lithuania in 1809, because some of his forebears had been students of the Vilna Gaon, and had also been distantly related to him.
In the final analysis, due to the pandemic, the Lithuanian authorities had to cancel their plans, and there was no trip to Vilnius for Rivlin, who most definitely would have received a very special red carpet treatment in view of the fact that not only is he the president of Israel, but he also shares some of the DNA of the Vilna Gaon, even though he is not a direct descendant.
For all that, the Lithuanians did not give up on including Rivlin in whatever could be salvaged of the anniversary year, and on Thursday, Antanaviciene presented him with a specially minted Vilna Gaon medal on behalf of Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda, with whom Rivlin had spoken by phone in April.
Rivlin told Antanaviciene how much he appreciated the fact that Lithuania has continued to preserve the legacy of the Vilna Gaon, and shared an important lesson from the Vilna Gaon’s teachings, which was to be careful of what one says, because the mouth is the gateway to the soul. For that reason, people should take care not to speak badly of others because evil words can lead to evil deeds. In this context, Rivlin said, “We must all stand up to those who spread hatred, because we know that it never ends just with words.”