ELIJAH WILNA, or Elijah ben Solomon, best known as the Gaon Elijah of Wilna (1720–1797), a noted Talmudist who hovered between the new and the old schools of thought. Orthodox in practice and feeling, his critical treatment of the rabbinic literature prepared the way for the scientific investigations of the 19th century. As a teacher he was one of the first to discriminate between the various strata in rabbinic records; to him was due the revival of interest in the older Midrash (q.v.) and in the Palestinian Talmud (q.v.), interest in which had been weak for some centuries before his time. He was an ascetic, and was a keen opponent of the emotional mysticism which was known as the new Hassidism.
See S. Schechter's Studies in Judaism (London, 1896). His voluminous writings are classified in the Jewish Encyclopedia, v. 134. (I. A.)