During the reign of the Polish "Zshetshpospolita", it was part of Brest Litovsk's "Voyevod" . In accordance with the resolution of the Lithuanian Council in the year 1623, was part of  the Brest Circle (“Area").  In the description of the trip by the Polish emissary in Moscow in the year 1678, Bernard Tanger, Seltz, was portrayed as “A big "woody" City full with Jews ”


In 1766, there were 260 Jews there.  At the time of the revision of the census of 1877, there were in Seltz 680 souls. By the people’s census of 1897, there were in Seltz 2,648 residents, including 866 Jews. (From the Brockhouse Ephron Russian-Hebrew Encyclopedia, volume 14, page 121).         



Chapter 1


SELTZ - THE CRADLE OF THE VILNA GAON (a brilliant scholar)


The eminent Vilna Gaon, Rabbi ELIAHU, was born in Seltz, a rare case of knowing this detail  We bring again a biographic fragment, which had a bearing on the parents of the Vilna Gaon, and his childhood years, which relates to Seltz. One has to understand that in the telling there is a little bit of throwing in what we call “fiction”. But this doesn’t change the fact that the parents of the Vilna Gaon were from Seltz, and that he was really born there.


Until today, when someone says that he comes from Vilna, that itself is a bit of importance.


Vilna was a city of learning, of knowledge - the city of Jewish ness - and the crown of Vilna was the Vilna Gaon, Rabbi ELIAHU.


The Vilna Gaon gave to the city so much importance, so much “Light from the Torah”, that Jews permitted to call the city “the Jerusalem of Lithuania.”


It is a little hard to understand that the Jews dared to make a move, to make a big deal of the greatness of Jerusalem and give the name to another city.  But that happened to Vilna, the city of the Vilna Gaon.


The mother of the Vilna Gaon came from a little shtetl, Seltz, not far from Brest in Lithuania. Seltz was a thrown-together little corner, a little shtetl, which had been designed with nothing other than poverty.  But it is Seltz also which has been exalted.  TREINA got married with a great scholar from Vilna, Rabbi SHLOIME ZALMAN, and in Seltz there was born their son - the Vilna Gaon (in 1720).


 TREINA, the mother of the Vilna Gaon, as all the Jewish daughters from the little shtetls of Lithuania, was very modest, and she did some good deeds - that is the highest praise among Jews.  They would come to poor weddings and dance - thus delighting the bride and groom. 


Once she danced so much at a wedding, and that was too much for her health, that they asked her why she did that.  And she answered - to deserve a mitzvah, and, on account of that, she gave birth to a son, who became the Vilna Gaon.  So they say.


Modesty, chastity - those were the great merits of TREINA, and those were also the great merits of character of the Vilna Gaon.  He has never been a Rabbi, and was asked so much to be the Vilna's Rabbi .  He however refused. For him was enough the honor of learning Torah, . He didn’t want to have the title of Rabbi for himself. (His father, Rabbi SHLOIME ZALMAN also did the same thing.)


In all the family of the Vilna Gaon, there was one feature of human modesty that was strongly regarded.  The Vilna Gaon was unassuming. His mother, his father and the previous generations; all were crowned with modesty.


When the Vilna Gaon was a child, he declined to play on the swings with the children. The mother, TREINA, asked him why he didn’t want to play on the swing.  She was surprised when he declared that he didn’t want to lift himself up in the air on the swing, while on the second swing there is another child closer to the ground; he couldn’t stand it…


When he got older, six-and-a-half years old, he gave a sermon in the Great Synagogue of Vilna.  This child spoke like a great scholar. Everyone stood with open mouths and listened to him.  The Vilna Rabbi, JOSHUA HESCHEL, listened to the young man.  He asked him a question and gave him an hour’s time to think about an answer.  An hour hadn’t passed, and little ELIHAU was ready to give the answer.


Hundreds of students did the Vilna Gaon have. They praised him and almost worshipped him.  A bit of the praise for the son fell on the mother. Rabbi CHAIM VOLOZHINER, when he would come to the Romnove River, would make a blessing.  “Praise be God who made a miracle to me in this place.” When they asked him what happened to him in this place, he said: “When the mother of the Vilna Gaon was a tiny child, her mother carried her in a cushion , and had to cross the Romnove River.  Both fell into the water, and they were saved.


Carrying her with the wet cushion, they laid TREINA down on a hot oven, so she could dry off.  The child got burned a leg, but she wasn’t harmed. She survived, and therefore Rabbi CHAIM VOLOZHINER gave a prayer over the miracle, for, if TREINA had not survived, there would not have been a child who would become the Vilna Gaon as Rabbi.


The Vilna Gaon loved his mother.  He wrote her a letter in which he called her my beloved, my mother.  And he wrote: “I know that you are a modest person and you don’t need my advice.”  That letter he wrote to his family, and a separate letter to his mother, when he traveled to Eretz Isroel, and, and gave instructions to his family - how we should get along and how we should bring up our children.


The letter to the mother was written with much gentleness. “I beg you not to worry about me.  Just as you promised me and as God will help me, and I will have the privilege  to be in Jerusalem, the Holy City, by the gateway to Heaven, I will ask to God for you as I had promised.


In his letter to the family, he  remembers them twice to support his mother.


SLOIME ZALMAN and TREINA lived in poverty, but is known that as much as the could, the gave money for charity.


Their son, the Vilna Gaon, went further in relation with money. He lived thanks to a small pension his grandfather leaved in Vilna's Community, with the order that with this money should maintain one of his descendants occupied with learning Torah.  Vilna"s Community though the service man, sent him the pension each week.  Was known that service man was caught by the "bad angel" and instead of giving it to him, put the money in his pocket.


The Vilna Gaon suffered but did not accused the service man, in order not to get him ashamed.


He learned from his mother that people has to "give" each other, but he went further, and allowed other to take things from him…


Was not "gratis" to call his mother "my beloved mother, I know you are pure". She made modestly good actions in favor of people,  and in this light, lasted image of Vilna Gaon's mother.