Questions About Rabbi Akiva and His Students


It is not mentioned that Rabbi Akiva mourned or reflected on the petira of his students but rather swiftly sought to rebuild.

A) Did Rabbi Akiva mourn, perhaps even assume some responsibility for the void in his talmidim?

B) It is not clear whether his iconic mantra v’ahavta l’reiacha kamocha was said as a result or throughout .
In my small scope of vision, please be mochel, I’d expect to see it written, to learn (and no, I’m a woman and do not learn gemorah, mishnayos) that Rebbe Akiva would say he’d have an additional ways to guide his talmidim.

C) It seems that Rabbi Akiva is the eternal optimist; ‘laughing’ or rather feeling a gladness at seeing the foxes at the churban because it reinforced for him the emunah of Hashem’s prophesy and promise, but nevertheless, just like a student must mourn r’l the petira of his Rebbe almost like for a father, does a Rebbe have some towards r’l a student? Yes, we can assume at times that the obvious is not written.


D) why were the students chayav misah ? Because they were on such a high madreiga? How high if they were not machshiv their colleagues, I’m assuming on a continual basis?

But to emphasize the message, the lesson learned may be important to realize.


Respectfully and with appreciation,




  1. A) Rav Yehuda Segal, Yireh v’Da’as, writes that Rabbi Akiva was broken by the loss of his Talmidim. His pain and sorrow were almost overwhelming however, Rabbi Akiva knew that he could not allow his own personal grief to stop him from rebuilding the spiritual leadership of the Jewish Nation. In fact, Rabbi Akivah’s ability to push beyond his own personal loss and to start again was a sign of his immeasurable greatness and his equally immeasurable humbleness. After losing twenty-four thousand Talmidim – the largest Yeshiva ever known in Jewish history – he started again, despite his advanced age, with just five students because he understood that the continuity of Torah was more important than anything else.

    B) There are actually differing opinions as to when the “iconic mantra v’ahavta l’reiacha kamocha” was formulated. According to some it was before the loss of his Talmidim and according to others it was a result of the loss of his Talmidim. I am not sure that I understand what you are referring to when you write that “Rebbe Akiva would say he’d have an additional ways to guide his Talmidim.” V’ahavta l’reiacha kamocha was not Rabbi Akiva’s only message to his Talmidim. He taught them all that he knew including every detail needed for character improvement. Why does Rabbi Akiva teach that v’ahavta l’reiacha kamocha is considered to be the most central tenet in the Torah? Because Rabbi Akiva was raising the spiritual leadership of the next generation and he wanted to instill in them the ability to empathize with everyone.

    C) There is no Halachic obligation for a Rebbi to mourn a Talmid. But there is no doubt that any Rebbi who does not mourn the passing of a Talmid is deficient in the basic requirement of v’ahavta l’reiacha kamocha.

    D) The Talmidim of Rabbi Akiva were the spiritual leadership of the next generation. They were going to be the continuity for the source of Torah Shebe’al Peh and they would be the final decisors as to its interpretation. That is why their absolute purity was essential. Not just purity Bein Adam L’Makom but their purity Bein Adam L’Chaveriro as well. That is why Chazal identify the tiniest of flaws in their interpersonal relationships as being the root of the problem and the cause of the terrible plague. When there are no more Talmidim left that is the sign that the problem no longer exists. That is the moment that Rabbi Akivah can begin again with five Talmidim and start the process of rebuilding Torah in the world. It is a paradox but until all the original Talmidim have passed from the world it is not possible for Rabbi Akivah to begin his work. That means that Lag b’Omer representing the end of the plague (at least according to one opinion) is also the moment that Rabbi Akivah can start his Avodas haKodesh.

    In a sense the original Talmidim are like finding cracks in the foundations of a building. When there are cracks on the fiftieth floor you just need some filler to take care of the problem. At most, perhaps a wall needs to be replaced. But when the problem is in the foundations the whole building has to be taken down and the foundations re-laid from scratch. Taking the whole building down is an enormous disaster but it is even more dangerous to leave the building up as it will threaten not just those who live in it but all those who live in the vicinity as well. The deaths of Rabbi Akivah’s Talmidim were a calamity that the Talmud describes as being greater than the Churban. But to leave them in place – as the leaders of the next generation – would have been an even greater calamity.

    Best wishes from the Team