Most Gedolim are known for their saintly deeds and breadth of Torah knowledge. Most of the Gedolim are known to have to learnt by other Gedolim or other giants in torah. But there are a number of known Talmidei Chachomim that were autodidacts, such as Rav Yosef Engel. My question is, can you please list other known Talmidei Chachomim (Gedolim) that were/are autodidacts?

  • This seems to say that torah isn't for autodidacts: ou.org/community/files/2020/05/… Jun 15, 2020 at 9:19
  • Autodidacts I've found so far: Ben Ish Chai, Rav Ovadia. I'm starting to realize that not surprising all the autodidacts were geniuses. Jun 15, 2020 at 9:24
  • Maharal was one as well Jun 15, 2020 at 9:36
  • R. Yosef Engel learned with his relative R. Shmuel Engel
    – wfb
    Jun 15, 2020 at 18:05
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    Rav Yosef Engel did not have a typical yeshiva education, but according to the brief biography in Asvan DiOraysa he was from a scholarly family, and he was taught by one of the local rabbis, Rabbi D. B. Shenkel. (I could not find him online. maybe beta.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=7028 ??)
    – simyou
    Jun 15, 2020 at 18:26

1 Answer 1


For what it's worth, Hebrew Wikipedia, under the term autodidact, consider R' Shalom Elyashive to be autodidact.

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    I think this highlights the problem with the question. Yes, Rav Elyashiv didn't attend a formal yeshiva. But growing up he learned with his father and grandfather (the Leshem). At age 13 he was spending lots of time writing down the kabbalistic ideas for his blind grandfather, and Rav Elyashiv mentioned that the Leshem explained things to him (it wasn't just pure copying.) So it's hardly autodidactic. The same is true for most rabbanim who didn't attend yeshiva; they still studied under their own fathers (Rav JB Soleveitchik for example.)
    – Binyomin
    Jun 16, 2020 at 18:09

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