The condition of the Halakah, that is, of religious praxis, and indeed of Judaism in general, was a very precarious one at the turn of the 1st century of the common era. We will touch on just part of the story now, and, please G-d, will return to this story in our next post. [3][11] Akiva also lived for some time at Ziphron,[12] modern Zafran[13] near Hamath. Still less could dogma serve the purpose, for dogmas were always repellent to rabbinical Judaism, whose very essence is development and the susceptibility to development. We can’t understand G-d, but we can emulate Him. We might hope that after living so troubled yet heroic a life, R. Akiva and Rachel would at last settle down to live happily ever after. ... who lived in Safed. The δευτερώσεις τοῦ καλουμένου Ραββὶ Ακιβά (Mishnah of the one called "Rabbi Akiva") mentioned by Epiphanius,[69] as well as the "great Mishnayot of Akiva",[70] are probably not to be understood as independent Mishnayot (δευτερώσεις) existing at that time, but as the teachings and opinions of Akiva contained in the officially recognized Mishnayot and Midrashim. Torah in Motion Travel: TICO reg #: 50022047, Pesachim 29: Enjoying Some Chametz on Pesach  ». When her father found out she was secretly betrothed[15] to an unlearned man, he was furious. But that was denied them as well. When I died, my wife was pregnant; but I have little hope that she will give my child proper training." Rabbi Akiva was the greatest of the Talmudic sages and the leading voice of resistance to Roman rule in Judea. Without a murmur he resigned himself to this hardship; and even when a lion devoured his donkey, and a cat killed the rooster whose crowing was to herald the dawn to him, and the wind extinguished his candle, the only remark he made was, "All that God does is for the good." G-d responds that, “There is one who, in the future and the end of some generations, will expound from each crown mountains and mountains of laws, and Akiva the son of Joseph is his name”. All of this (one vs. many) is when the solitary view is the lenient position, and the many take the stringent view. he expired. Examples include the oil and the flour of the korban mincha, the two goats—one for G-d and one for Azazel—of Yom Kippur, the four species of the lulav, the two parshiot of the mezuzah, and the four parshiot of the tefillin. asked Akiva. A similar piyut is recited on Tisha B’Av, though the purpose of each—and hence, the piyyutim themselves—differs. [3] And it is here that children are the ones to determine Jewish law. Not knowing who he was, Ben Kalba Sabu'a also approached Akiva and asked him for help annulling his vow to disown his daughter and her husband. [3][38], The version in the Babylonian Talmud tells it as a response of Akiva to his students, who asked him how he could yet offer prayers to God. Ben Kalba Sabu'a replied, "Had I known that he would learn even one chapter or one single halakha, [I would not have made the vow]". At the same time, it is fair to consider the Mishnah of Judah ha-Nasi (called simply "the Mishnah"), as well as the majority of all halakhic Midrashim now extant, as derived from the school of Akiva. [3] The only established fact concerning Akiva's connection with Bar Kochba is that he regarded Bar Kochba as the promised Messiah;[31] this is the only evidence of active participation by Akiva in the revolution. “Just as He is compassionate and merciful, so, too, should you be compassionate and merciful” (Shabbat 133a). Weiss. When Akiva and his wife saw that there were people even poorer than they, Rachel said to him, "Go, and become a scholar". [3], According to Johanan bar Nappaḥa (199–279), "Our Mishnah comes directly from Rabbi Meir, the Tosefta from R. Nehemiah, the Sifra from R. Judah, and the Sifre from R. Simon; but they all took Akiva for a model in their works and followed him. "Is there no help for you?" "[3], Concerning end times, Akiva interpreted Bible prophecy using what is now called the historicist methodology, which recognizes the day-year principle and the four kingdoms of Daniel 2 (i.e., Babylon, Media/Persia, Greece and Rome). Rabbi Akiva laughed. But R. Akiva understood what R. Eliezer had to offer differently than R. Eliezer. As bondsmen for the loan, Akiva named God and the sea, on the shore of which the matrona's house stood. All one can do is to remain silent, as Aharon did in the face of tragedy. [3][93], This was not the only occasion on which Akiva was made to feel the truth of his favorite maxim ("Whatever God does, He does for the best"). [27], In 95–96, Akiva was in Rome,[3][28] and some time before 110 he was in Nehardea. [82] This is quite remarkable, seeing that in matrimonial legislation he went so far as to declare every forbidden union as absolutely void[83] and the offspring as illegitimate. It was not long before Rabbi Akiva was charged and convicted. Yet the story is referenced in one other place in the Talmud, namely in masechet Menachot. Again it happened that Rabban Gamliel, Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria, Rabbi Joshua and Rabbi Akiva went up to Jerusalem.When they reached Mt. Rabbi Akiva (sometimes spelled Akiba) is considered to be one of the greatest rabbinic sages, yet the biographical details of his life remain somewhat of a mystery. Mishnah); (2) the Tosefta, which in its original form contains a concise logical argument for the Mishnah, somewhat like the Lebush of Mordecai Jafe on the Shulchan Aruch; (3) the halakhic Midrash. Akiva persevered until his pupil was able to officiate as reader in the synagogue; and when there for the first time he recited the prayer, "Bless the Lord!" He had to go with his young child to school to learn to read the Hebrew alphabet. [3][40] Rebbe Akiva's modern day tomb is located in Tiberias. Rabbi Akiva was troubled his whole life trying to understand the meaning of the Shema. Akiva ben Yosef (written עקיבא‎ aqívā in the Babylonian Talmud and עקיבה‎ aqívāh in the Jerusalem Talmud) was of humble parentage. [3], What was Rabbi Akiva like? [3][95] There exists the following tradition: Akiva once met a coal-black man carrying a heavy load of wood and running with the speed of a horse. The fact that Eliezer was his first teacher, and the only one whom Akiva later designates as "rabbi", is of importance in settling the date of Akiva's birth. [36] That the religious interdicts of Hadrian preceded the overthrow of Bar Kochba is shown by the Mekhilta.[37][3]. When his wife went out to greet him, some of his students, not knowing who she was, sought to restrain her. A band of robbers had fallen upon the city and carried its inhabitants into captivity, but he had escaped because his abiding place had not been noticed in the darkness, and neither beast nor fowl had betrayed him. [3][4] According to some sources, he was descended from converts to Judaism.[5]. The Death of Rabbi Akiva's 24,000 Students the Omer By Nachum Mohl The period of the Omer, which is the time between Passover and the Shavuot holiday, is a time that marriages are not performed. Orthodox Union. He Died a Hero’s Death. Rabbi Akiva was a leading contributor to the Mishnah and to Midrash halakha. As his skin was being torn from his body, Rabbi Akiva spent his final moments on earth reciting the שמע ישראל. The Gemara relates at length how Rabbi Akiva fulfilled these directives. [1] This idea is the foundational principle of Christianity and thus, many feel it is somehow un-Jewish. The Sages taught: One time, after the bar Kokheva rebellion, the evil empire of Rome decreed that Israel may not engage in the study and practice of Torah. Akiva asked him, "Would you have made your vow if you had known that he would become a great scholar?" When Moses asks God what the pious Akiva's reward will be, he is shown the aftermath of his execution. [3], If the older Halakha is to be considered as the product of the internal struggle between Phariseeism and Sadduceeism, the Halacha of Akiva must be conceived as the result of an external contest between Judaism on the one hand and Hellenism and Hellenistic Christianity on the other. [3][91], The Talmud enumerates six occasions in which Akiva gained wealth. [92] In one case, his success as a teacher led his wealthy father-in-law Kalba Savua to acknowledge such a distinguished son-in-law and to support him. [22][23] Convinced of the necessity of a central authority for Judaism, Akiva became a devoted adherent and friend of Rabban Gamaliel, who aimed at constituting the patriarch the true spiritual chief of the Jews. It was to be feared that the Jews, by their facility in accommodating themselves to surrounding —even then a marked characteristic—might become entangled in the net of Grecian philosophy, and even in that of Gnosticism. Besides Eliezer, Akiva studied under Joshua ben Hananiah[6] and Nachum Ish Gamzu. [3] and in which Akiva dedicated himself to the study of Torah. When morning dawned he learned how true his words were. [3][49] This view of Akiva's, in spite of the energetic protests of his colleague Rabbi Ishmael, became the one generally accepted by his contemporaries. [3][6] She stood loyally by her husband during the period of his late initiation into rabbinic studies after he was 40 years of age. It was on Yom Kippur that the Jewish people were forgiven for the sin of the golden calf, G-d re-established the covenant with His people, and the Torah was given anew. [42], A tannaitic tradition mentions that of the four who entered paradise, Akiva was the only one that returned unscathed. Upon his inquiry as to what these might be for, he received the answer, "There will come a man, named Akiva ben Yosef, who will deduce halakhot from every little curve and crown of the letters of the Law." [55] Hence his maxim, referred to above, "God rules the world in mercy, but according to the preponderance of good or bad in human acts. Means for the theoretical study of the halachah were also scant; both logic and exegesis—the two props of the Halakah—being differently conceived by the various ruling tannaim, and differently taught. Akiva had an answer ready: "For the very reason, the duty of man is to perfect himself. RABBI AKIVA: SAGE OF THE TALMUD By Barry W. Holtz Yale University Press, 248 pages, $25. G-d may grant atonement, but at the same time, not answer our prayers as we would like. His five main students were Judah bar Ilai, Rabbi Meir, Rabbi Eleazar ben Shammua, Jose ben Halafta and Shimon bar Yochai. "It is for neither of these," the man replied; "I am dead and am compelled because of my great sins to build my funeral pyre every day. When I was a rabbinical student, my teacher, Rabbi … His students asked him: “Our master, even now? He pondered also the nature of that bond. [3], But he is far from representing strict justice as the only attribute of God: in agreement with the ancient Israel theology of the מדת הדין, "the attribute of justice", and מדת הרחמים, "the attribute of mercy,"[3][54] he teaches that God combines goodness and mercy with strict justice. A scholar so great that he would be compared to Moses was an illiterate man in mid-life! Crowns: Moses Visits Rabbi Akiva's Beit Midrash": "Rachel, Wife of Akiva: Women in Ancient Israel," Video Lecture by Dr. Henry Abramson,, Wikipedia articles incorporating a citation from the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia, Wikipedia articles incorporating a citation from the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia without a Wikisource reference, Wikipedia articles incorporating text from the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia, Short description is different from Wikidata, Pages using Sister project links with hidden wikidata, Wikipedia articles with BIBSYS identifiers, Wikipedia articles with PLWABN identifiers, Wikipedia articles with SELIBR identifiers, Wikipedia articles with SUDOC identifiers, Wikipedia articles with Trove identifiers, Wikipedia articles with WORLDCATID identifiers, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, The high conception of woman's dignity, which Akiva shared in common with most other, Aleksandrov, G. S. "The Role of Aqiba in the Bar Kochba Rebellion." [89] It is related that, during his stay in Rome, Akiva became intimately acquainted with the Jewish proselyte Ketia bar Shalom, a very influential Roman (according to some scholars identical with Flavius Clemens, Domitian's nephew[90]), who, before his execution for pleading the cause of the Jews, bequeathed to Akiva all his possessions. The great scholar, who had supported Bar Kochba in his revolt against Rome, gathered people together and gave public Torah lectures. He then spilled out half the water. After fasting 40 days and praying to God to bless his efforts, he heard a heavenly voice (bat kol) asking, "Why do you go to so much trouble on behalf of this person?" [3] Akiva's death occurred after several years of imprisonment,[35] which places it at about 132,[3] before the suppression of the Bar Kochba revolution; otherwise the delay of the Romans in executing him would be quite inexplicable. The story of his death is recorded in masechet Brachot (61b) in connection with the mitzvah of loving G-d—something Rabbi Akiva was able to do despite, or might we say, because he was being martyred. 23:05. When they reached the Temple Mount, they saw a fox emerging from the place of the Holy of Holies.The others started weeping; Rabbi Akiva … some deep reference to philosophical and ethical doctrines, Akiva perceived in them indications of many important ceremonial laws, legal statutes, and ethical teachings. He then put the question, "Why has God not made man just as He wanted him to be?" If it be out of poverty that you do this, I will take care of your needs." I read one Rabbi who said the hand washing ritual washes the right hand first to show that kindness/mercy (right) supersedes severity/justice (left). [3], But this was not sufficient to obviate all threatening danger. The death of Akiva is usually rendered as some redacted form of three separate versions of the circumstances. The night, however, was as bright as the finest summer's day. Torah in Motion USA: 501(c)(3) Legendary allusion to this change in Akiva's life is made in two slightly varying forms. Here, the context is not the superhuman faith of Rabbi Akiva, but the seeming unfairness of G-d’s justice in allowing Rabbi Akiva to meet such a tragic and tortuous end. [39], Another legend is that Elijah bore the body by night to Caesarea. The reason given is during this particular time, twelve thousand pairs of Rabbi Akiva's students died. While that is nicer, I do believe that in context, the translation used above (and one consistent with modern-day Hebrew) is more powerful. [3], The enormous difference between the Halakha before and after Akiva may be briefly described as follows: The old halakha was (as its name indicates) the religious practice sanctioned as binding by tradition, to which were added extensions and (in some cases) limitations of the Torah, arrived at by strict logical deduction. In-depth Yerushalmi Daf Yomi shiurim. [3], Tinnius Rufus asked: "Which is the more beautiful—God's work or man's?" Akiva said to him, "I am that man". [41] Annually, on the night of Lag BaOmer, Boston Chassidim and local residents gather at the tomb of Rebbe Akiva to light a bonfire, a tradition reinstated by the Bostoner Rebbe in 1983. That the death of Rabbi Akiva is discussed in masechet Menachot highlights the beautifully discursive, yet precisely edited, nature of … On Tisha B’Av, it is included as part of the mourning process on the saddest day of the year. [16], By agreement with his wife, Akiva spent twelve years away from home, pursuing his studies. She offered to marry him if he would agree to begin studying Torah, as at the time he was 40 years old and illiterate. [86] This story gives a picture of Akiva's activity as the father of Talmudic Judaism. [3][24] However, Akiva was just as firmly convinced that the power of the patriarch must be limited both by the written and the oral law, the interpretation of which lay in the hands of the learned; and he was accordingly brave enough to act in ritual matters in Rabban Gamaliel's own house contrary to the decisions of Rabban Gamaliel himself. A most appropriate question, especially for someone described as “exceedingly humble, more than any person on the face of the earth” (Bamidbar 12:3). He believed that Bar Kokhba was the Moshiach (messiah), though some other rabbis openly ridiculed him for that belief (the Talmud records another rabbi as saying, "Akiva, grass will grow in your cheeks and still the son of David will not have come.") I believe that both reasons for the death of Rabbi Akiva's students can be read harmoniously. Like Philo,[75] who saw in the Hebrew construction of the infinitive with the finite form of the same verb and in certain particles (adverbs, prepositions, etc.) His wife's first name is not provided in earlier sources, but a later version of the tradition gives it as Rachel. The death throes of their teacher, the saintly Rabbi Eliezer, wrenched sobs from the throats of the sages. He returned twelve years later escorted by 24,000 disciples. Yerushalmi Ta'anit, 4 68d; also Sanhedrin 93b in Yad HaRav Herzog manuscript, Mekhilta Mishpaṭim 18, where Akiva regards the martyrdom of two of his friends as ominous of his own fate. R. Akiva said, “I have many coins” – he had much Torah, even without all of the myriad of facts that R. Eliezer had to teach. Rabbi Akiva’s Martyrdom When the Romans decreed that teaching Torah is a crime punishable by death, Rabbi Akiva’s reaction was not surprising. Naturally, the Gemara then discusses what exactly renders a letter kosher or not[3]. Sanhedrin 96b in Yad HaRav Herzog manuscript (text: מבני בניו שלסיסרא לימדו תורה בירושלם ומנו ר' עקיבה) but not other manuscripts; "Tragedy in Perspective: Why Did Rabbi Akiva Laugh?" But he was not opposed to a private reading of the Apocrypha,[3] as is evident from the fact that he himself makes frequent use of Sirach. [14], According to the Talmud, Akiva was a shepherd for Ben Kalba Sabu'a when the latter's daughter noticed his modesty and fine character traits. These legends set the beginning of his years of study at about 75–80. Rabbi Akiva laughed, knowing that if one prophecy came to be — the destruction and desecration of the Temple — then the prophecy of Zecharia … In fact, that itself may be part of the atonement ואכמ"ל. Torah in Motion3910 Bathurst Street, Suite 307Toronto, ON M3H 5Z3 CanadaTel: (416) 633-5770 Toll Free: (866), Torah in Motion (Canada): 890695349RR0001 Co… [32] A baraita[33] states that Akiva suffered martyrdom on account of his transgression of Hadrian's edicts against the practice and the teaching of the Jewish religion, being sentenced to die by Turnus Rufus in Caesarea. And now that I am finally able to fulfill it, I should not?" Later, when Akiva arrived to discharge his indebtedness, the matrona not only refused to accept the money, but insisted upon Akiva's receiving a large share of what the sea had brought to her. Our Sages (Moed Katan 28a) teach that the death of the righteous atones[1], and it is thus hard to think of anything more appropriate to recite on the Day of Atonement. Rabbi Akiva died a martyr's death at the hands of the Romans in the early years of the second century of the Common Era. [3][34] As this story credits the execution to religious rather than political reasons, it may be evidence against Akiva's having a role in the revolt. One of the most moving parts of the Yom Kippur davening is the recital of the asara harugei malchut, the ten rabbinic leaders martyred by the Romans. The Talmud records him as saying that he had such hatred for Torah scholar… And yet, on that very same day, in response to Moshe’s request to understand the ways of G-d, G-d declared to Moshe that, “No man can see My face and live” (Shemot 33:20). In, Goldin, Judah. - A worker who goes out with his basket. Every peculiarity of diction, every particle, every sign, is to be considered as of higher importance, as having a wider relation and as being of deeper meaning than it seems to have. On Yom Kippur, we ask G-d to answer our prayers. After being transported to Rabbi Akiva’s Beit Midrash, Moshe is so impressed with Rabbi Akiva that he asks G-d why He does not give the Torah through Rabbi Akiva? "Almost none," replied the deceased; "for I understand that my sufferings will end only when I have a pious son. Akiva ben Yosef (Hebrew: עקיבא בן יוסף ‎ ‎‎, c. 40 – c. 137 CE), widely known as Rabbi Akiva (רבי עקיבא ‎), was a tanna of the latter part of the first century and the beginning of the second century (the third tannaitic generation). [3][66] Akiva probably also provided for a revised text of the Targums; certainly, for the essential base of the Targum Onkelos, which in matters of Halakah reflects Akiva's opinions completely.[3][67].