Jewish Personalities

Rabbi Akiva

1. One of the greatest sages of Israel throughout the ages was Rabbi Akiva ben Yosef; He is the paragon of self-sacrifice for the Torah, and he left his mark on many Jewish laws. Hs name is mentioned in the Talmud nearly 1500 times. He lived between 17 and 137 CE.

2. Akiva was an ignorant man who shepherded the flock of the wealthy Kalba Sֹabua. Rachel, the daughter of Kalba Sabua, married Rabbi Akiva on condition that he would begin to study Torah. Even though he was already 40 and an ignoramus, Rachel believed in him because of his wonderful character.

3. Kalba Sabua vehemently opposed the marriage of Akiva and Rachel, and he disinherited his daughter Rachel from his assets. As a result, Akiva and Rachel lived in a straw hut in dire poverty.

4. Akiva initially hesitated to go learn Torah, since he was 40 and didn’t even know how to read. One day, he stood and noticed a hole in a stone, and realized that a constant trickle of water had carved the hole in stone.

5. That scene sparked hope in Akiva heart, and he drew a conclusion for himself: if the soft water was able to wear out a hole in a hard stone — then the Torah’s words which are as hard as iron could penetrate his soft heart.

6. Akiva was at first ashamed to go to school, because he was at the level of children, but Rachel encouraged him, and he went to study together with his son in a beginners’ class.

7. After decades of toiling in Torah, with the support and encouragement of Rachel, Akiva became the famous Talmudic scholar who was erudite in every aspect of the Torah. His teachers were Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, and Rabbi Joshua ben Chananiah, the disciples of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai, and the heads of the Sanhedrin.

8. After decades of study, Rabbi Akiva returned home with 24,000 students. Rabbi Akiva pointed at Rachel, turned to his thousands of students and said the immortal phrase: “Mine and yours [Torah knowledge], is hers.”

9. Rabbi Akiva’s most famous disciples included Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and Rabbi Meir Baal Haness.

10. Rabbi Akiva’s famous sayings include: “Love your neighbor as yourself — this is the Torah’s great rule”, “Everything that G-d does — He does for the good”. 


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