Volume 42 Number 63
                 Produced: Fri May  7  6:40:23 US/Eastern 2004

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Bnei Brak Seder
Music during Sefira (2)
         [Chaim, Abie Zayit]
R. Akiva's group at the Mokom Mikdash
         [Simon Wanderer]
Rabbi Akiba in The Temple Compound
         [Yisrael Medad]
Sources for R. Akiva's age (3)
         [Michael Kahn, Avi Feldblum, Alex Heppenheimer]


From: <MRosenPSI@...>
Date: Wed, 5 May 2004 10:03:24 EDT
Subject: Bnei Brak Seder

Yirael Medad writes:

      He quotes from the Tikunei Hazohar (Hakdama, P. 10B and 4B) in
      which the phrase "I am as if I am 70 years old" is seen to be
      referring to the end of the Exile, like in the case with the First

      His suggestion is that the seder and the discussion about the
      Reading of Shema were a cover for a planning of the revolt and the
      appointment of its leaders.

To the best of my knowledge, the suggestion of the meeting in Bnei Braq
being a cover for revolution is a modern invention- there is no source
for this and this only appears with the resurgence of Jewish
Nationalism.  It is a myth that fuels the hisotrical antecedents of
ridding the land of oppressos. (I am not making a political statement,
just an historical one.) I spoke about this at one of our seders this
year. If you look at the haggadah's placing of the Bnei Braq telling of
the story and the "Harei ani cben shivim shana" I think that the
redactor of the haggadah is telling a different story- it is importnat
to note that of the pariticpants in the setting only R. Akiba is a
revolutionary - he says nothing in the haggadah- Ben Azzai statement is
a nechemta that tells Jews to look beyond the despair of the current
setting- subjugation and destruction- and focus on the teleological
ending. If looked at in this way, the haggadah is councelling not revolt
but living with the reality and hoping for Messiah.


From: <Smwise3@...> (Chaim)
Date: Wed, 5 May 2004 07:13:59 EDT
Subject: Re: Music during Sefira

<< I read the reaction to the ban on music during the sefirah and I have my
own feelings about it.  As a Jew, I am always aware of the tragic
episodes where we suffered great losses of lives.  Two churbans,
Hadrianic massacres, Crusades, the Black Death, Chmelnitzki, pogroms,
lastly the Shoah and countless others.  They have no specific halachic
commemorations other than the collective Tisha B'av and other fasts. The
exception is the Sefirah.  We spend about 10% of our lives in Aveilut
for an event which, although horribly tragic, pales in comparison to one
week in Auschwitz.  The reason Rabbi Akiva's students merit this
commemoration is the timing of their demise.  It traumatized a
generation that was standardizing Jewish practices for the next two
millenia. 1850 or so years later it is hard to maintain a sad face for
thirty some days and feel the trauma of that one particular event for so
Ira Bauman >>

I think you may have missed the point.  The talmidim of Rabbi Akiva died
because of sinas chinom and lashon ha-rah that existed among them.
Today, such negative forces still exist within our community.  The
period of sefirah is supposed to be a reflection on what happened then,
and truly something to mourn about that despite the tragic deaths,
little has changed.

Perhaps the reasons for the aveilus are not stressed enough--which is
why you may have come to your conclusion.  The greatest tragedies among
Jews are not what outsiders do to us, but what we do to ourselves.


From: <oliveoil@...> (Abie Zayit)
Date: Wed, 5 May 2004 21:32:11 +0000
Subject: Music during Sefira

Ira Bauman writes:
>The reason Rabbi Akiva's students merit this commemoration is the timing
>of their demise. It traumatized a generation that was standardizing Jewish
>practices for the next two millenia. 1850 or so years later it is hard to
>maintain a sad face for thirty some days and feel the trauma of that one
>particular event for so long.

See the first volume of Daniel Sperber's Minhagei Yisrael, chapter 12,
in which Professor Sperber claims that the Ashkenazi switch of aveilut
from the first 33 days to the last 33 days of Sefira stemmed froma need
to "update" the Aveilut to reflect the recent tragedy of the Crusades.

Apparently the Rishonim also had trouble retaining the ancient Aleilut.

In my mind this explanation is a good source for establishing Asara
BeTevet as "Yom HaKaddish HaKelali" for the Shoah, a decision passed by
the Rabbanut some time ago.

Abie Zayit


From: Simon Wanderer <simon.wanderer@...>
Date: Wed, 5 May 2004 12:03:13 +0100
Subject: Re: R. Akiva's group at the Mokom Mikdash

> From: <chips@...>
> 	There is an important difference. At that time the structure was
> still in place. The Romans did not plow the site until much, much
> later - decades after BarKochba.

I don't really know much about these things, so I'm not sure what
difference it would make if the *structure* was still in place (quite
how that would be the case after the *Churban (destruction)* had taken
place, is not immediately obvious to me).

More specifically, however,  the story in the Gemara tells of R' Akiva's
joy at seeing the fulfilment of the prophesy of Zion as a "ploughed



From: Yisrael Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Thu, 06 May 2004 00:39:01 +0200
Subject: Rabbi Akiba in The Temple Compound

      <chips@...> wrote:
       At that time [of Rabbi Akiba] the structure was still in
      place. The Romans did not plow the site until much, much later -
      decades after BarKochba.

The Mishnah, Taanit 4:6 reads that on Tisha B'av: nilkada Betar
v'nechresha ha'Ir (Betar was captured and the City [Jerusalem]) was
ploughed under, and this after listing the destruction of the Second
Temple.  This would surely indicate that the Roman eradication of the
last remnants of the Jewish structures on the Temple Mount occurred
immediately after its conquest.  Most history books note that this
ultimate destruction was done within a year of the Hadrianic conquest.

But to get back to Rabbi Akiba and whether or not original Temple period
buildings were extant when he visited the site, is a point that does not
affect the point I was making which is that Rabbi Akiba most probably
entered the Temple Mount compound, in areas which he knew were not
sanctified - either because they were outside the 500 square cubit
courtyard, or inside the Machaneh Leviya permitted for entrance or that
he considered the area not to be sanctified once the structures were
basically destroyed.

Yisrael Medad


From: Michael Kahn <mi_kahn@...>
Date: Wed, 05 May 2004 22:46:45 -0400
Subject: RE: Sources for R. Akiva's age

>This Midrash is trying to make Hillel the elder, Yochnan Ben-Zakai and
>Rabbi Akiba equal to Moses, and therefore all lived to a ripe utopic
>age of 120....In a sense this is a literary devise.

It seems to me that you are saying that Chazal were playing loose with
the facts when they said Rabbi Akiva lived to 120. I have trouble
accepting such an understanding of chazal. You are making them sound
intellectually dishonest.

From: Avi Feldblum <feldblum@...>
Date: Fri, 7 May 2004 05:43:10 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: RE: Sources for R. Akiva's age

> From: Michael Kahn <mi_kahn@...>
> [See above]

No, I do not think that is what the previous poster is saying. He is
saying that the statement of chazal that Rabbi Aliva lived to 120 is a
medrashic statement. Therefore, one needs to understand whether Chazal
is trying to impart historical information to us, or whether they have a
midrashic point connecting the 4 (IIRC) individuals and the idea of 120
years. If the latter, then the historical actual age of Rabbi Akiva may
not be relevent. See Rambam in introduction to I think Chelek.

Avi Feldblum

From: Alex Heppenheimer <aheppenh@...>
Date: Wed, 5 May 2004 17:07:46 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: Sources for R. Akiva's age

In MJ 42:61, c.halevi cited an extensive passage from the old Jewish
Encyclopedia about R' Akiva's biography, and attempted to prove from
this that he couldn't have lived to anywhere near 120 years old.

IMHO, this passage could serve as a textbook example of how flawed is
the Maskilic/"Higher Critical" approach ("the Torah is wrong" rather
than "I need to understand this better and look for ways to reconcile
apparently conflicting statements"), whether in history or in any other
area of Torah knowledge. (Please note that I'm not accusing Mr. Halevi
of such a view; my beef is with the authors and editors of the
encyclopedia, many of whom were prominent maskilim and/or Reformers with
some definite axes to grind.)

Some comments:

    A misunderstanding of the expression 'Zekut Abot' (Ber. l.c.),
    joined to a tradition concerning Sisera, captain of the army of
    Hazor (Git. 57b, Sanh. 96b), is the source of another tradition
    (Nissim Gaon to Ber. l.c.), which makes Akiba a descendant of

--And what exactly is being "misunderstood" here? What's the
contradiction between R' Akiva being descended from (converts descended
from) Sisera, and his not having zechus avos comparable to Rabban

    Of the romantic story of Akiba's marriage with the daughter of
    the wealthy Jerusalemite, Kalba Sabu'a, whose shepherd he is
    said to have been (see Akiba ben Joseph in Legend), only this
    is true, that Akiba was a shepherd (Yeb. 86b; compare ibid.
    16a). His wife's name was Rachel (Ab. R. N. ed. Schechter, vi.
    29), and she was the daughter of an entirely unknown man named
    Joshua, who is specifically mentioned (Yad. iii. 5) as Akiba's

--Two points:

* The Mishnah in Yadayim there quotes a statement of "Rabbi Yochanan ben
Yehoshua son of R' Akiva's father-in-law." Depending on how that's
punctuated, one could just as easily understand this to mean that
Yehoshua, not R' Yochanan, was the son of R' Akiva's father-in-law. In
other words, R' Yochanan could have been Kalba Savua's grandson, making
him R' Akiva's nephew by marriage.

* Even if we accept that it means that R' Akiva's father-in-law was "an
entirely unknown man named Joshua" (and that R' Yochanan was his son,
hence R' Akiva's brother-in-law), what of it? Avos dR' Nosson there
explicitly states that R' Akiva went _with his son_ to learn in cheder.
So it's quite plausible that R' Akiva was widowed or divorced when he
met Kalba Savua's daughter. (I've even seen a suggestion - although I
don't recall the source - that R' Yehoshua the son of R' Akiva, who is
mentioned in Shevuos 6a, was this son from his first marriage. See also
Tosafos to Bava Kamma 113a, s.v. Umatu, as to whether he can be
identified with R' Yehoshua ben Karcha.)

    The fact that Eliezer was his first teacher, and the only one
    whom Akiba later designates as 'rabbi,' is of importance in
    settling the date of Akiba's birth. It is known that in 95-96
    Akiba had already attained great prominence (Graetz, 'Gesch. d.
    Juden,' 2d ed., iv. 121), and, further, that he studied for
    thirteen years before becoming a teacher himself (Ab. R. N.
    l.c.). Thus the beginning of his years of study would fall
    about 75-80. Earlier than this, Johanan ben Zakkai was living;
    and Eliezer, being his pupil, would have been held of no
    authority in Johanan's lifetime. Consequently, if we accept the
    tradition that Akiba was forty when beginning the study of the
    Law, he must have been born about 40-50.

--This is incorrect on several levels:

* Even if we accept Graetz's dating of the conversation between R' Akiva
and R' Dosa ben Horkinas (Yevamos 16a) to about 95-96, then that marks
the _latest_ possible date by which R' Akiva "had already attained great
prominence," not the earliest. So all that tells us is that he couldn't
have been born any later than about the year 42-43 (allowing forty years
before he began studying, and thirteen years of study); how does that
demonstrate that he wasn't born, say, around the year 15 and had
attained great prominence by the time of the destruction of the Beis
HaMikdash (and was still prominent a quarter of a century later)? If I
show you (lehavdil) the famous New York Times article from 1975 about R'
Moshe Feinstein as a gadol hador, does that prove that he wasn't already
considered a gadol hador in the '60s?

* R' Yitzchak Isaac Halevi, in his historical work Doros HaRishonim,
argues that this discussion between R' Dosa ben Horkinas and the other
Sages actually occurred around the years 80-85. If we take this to be
correct, and accept the figures of 40+13, that pushes back R' Akiva's
birth to no later than about the year 30. Furthermore, in both of the
Gemara's narratives on Rachel and R' Akiva (Kesubos 62b-63a and Nedarim
50a), it speaks of him having studied for a total of twenty-four years;
thus, R' Akiva might have been born as early as c. 15 CE, just about 120
years before his execution in 135, and his years of study would have
spanned the period c. 55-80 CE. (The figure "13 years" from A.dR.N. - as
well as from the Yerushalmi, Pesachim 42a - is how long it took before
he was ready to teach others, not necessarily the total amount of time
he stayed in the yeshivah as R' Eliezer's student.)

* There are numerous places in the Mishnah and Gemara where we see that
disciples had their own yeshivos and students during the lifetimes of
their teachers. (Indeed, one example of this is R' Akiva himself, who
returned to his hometown accompanied by 12,000 students, and yet went
back to continue studying for another twelve years.) So there's nothing
unusual in R' Akiva studying under R' Eliezer during R' Yochanan ben
Zakkai's lifetime; if anything, it would have been rather strange had
he, a beginner, presumptuously tried to put himself on the same level as
the famous five students of RYBZ.

Kol tuv,


End of Volume 42 Issue 63