In essence, what I am saying here is that our future happiness is dependent on the troubles that we have experienced during our long exile. Perhaps this can be best summed up with the conclusion of the Talmudic Tractate of Makkot (24b), involving four rabbis - Rabban Gamliel, Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah, Rabbi Yehoshua, and Rabbi Akiva, who, when they were on the Temple Mount grounds following the destruction of the Temple, they witnessed a fox emerging from where it used to be the Kodesh Kodoshim (Holy of Holies) room in which only the Cohen Gadol (High Priest) entered only on Yom Kippur. All the other rabbis except for Rabbi Akiva then started to cry while he began to laugh. Wondering about Rabbi Akiva's seemingly strange behavior, they wondered how one could not cry about how a place that once functioned as the holiest spot in the world could now turn into a place in which foxes were hanging out. Answering their challenge, Rabbi Akiva reminded them of a verse in which two prophets are mentioned - Uriyah HaCohen who lived during the era of the First Temple, and Zechariah ben Yeverechyah who lived during the era of the Second Temple. Of course, the question then begs to be asked - what do these two prophets have in common with each other if they didn't even live during the same time period? Rabbi Akiva answered that the happy prophecy of Zechariah of the future time of old people sitting in the streets of Jerusalem is dependent on the sad prophecy of Uriah that Zion would be plowed over as in a field, Jerusalem would become a heap of rubble, and the Temple Mount would become like stone heaps in the forest. Rabbi Akiva noted that he worried that perhaps Zechariah's prophecy wouldn't come true. However, now that he saw that Uriah's sad prophecy came true, then for sure, Zechariah's happy prophecy would have to come true, being that Zechariah's prophecy is dependent on Uriah's prophecy being that they are mentioned together in the same verse, even though they lived in different eras (Note: The prophecies themselves are mentioned separately, but there is a separate verse that mentions the two prophets together). Upon this, the other rabbis exclaimed: "Akiva, you have comforted us. Akiva, you have comforted us."
As we can see here, the rabbis' exclamation statement to Rabbi Akiva was doubled, with the same basic wording as Nachamu Nachamu, the double wording of comfort. For in fact, this is the essence of what Rabbi Akiva was saying, that our future happiness is dependent on the troubles that we have to go through in exile; for it isn't simply that we will no longer have troubles happening to us by the anti-Semitic nations, but that we will in fact have our greatest joy SPECIFICALLY because of those troubles. As we say in Tehillim (Psalms 90:15): "Gladden us according to the days that You afflicted us, the years in which we saw evil".
As for Rabbi Akiva's name itself, it is based on the word Eikev (heel), just as the name Yaakov as I wrote about in my previous post. And as in the context of the above story, the double exclamation from the rabbis to Rabbi Akiva was more than just calling him by his name. True, one can say that even though he was among the foremost rabbis of his time, they called him just by his name as they were like equals to each other (in fact, one of these rabbis - Rabbi Yehoshua, was one of Rabbi Akiva's main Torah teachers). However, the fact that this story concludes this Talmudic tractate Makkot, which means beatings (referring to the punishment of lashes administered by the Jewish court), which at least in the metaphorical sense, refers to the troubles that the Jews have gone through in exile, must be telling us much more than just another Talmudic story (Note: Sometimes, a story that is recounted in the Talmud cannot be taken by its literal meaning, and can ONLY mean something metaphorical). And so, the fact that Rabbi Akiva's name is based on the name of the bottom or END part of the body signifies that indeed, it will be at the END OF DAYS, commonly called Keitz HaYomim, referring to the Messianic era, that we will indeed be comforted twice from the destruction of both Temples, as the Third Temple that we will soon be built, G-d willing, will be permanent without ever being destroyed again. In fact, there is an Aramaic name for the END period of our exile that is called Ikveta D'Meshicha "The footsteps of Messiah" - the first Aramaic word being based on the word Eikev, allegorically referring to hearing Moshiach arriving at our door by his footsteps, as he will be arriving any moment (so to speak, but it could literally happen before the end of writing my sentence here), though there may be a question as to when this period began, but there is no question based on the fulfillment of recent prophecies that the time of our Redemption is - just a matter of time.
As it turns out, just as the name Yaakov, the subject of my previous post #182, is the Gematria of that post number, in this post #183, the name Akiva is the Gematria of this number; the difference between the two names besides the order of the letters is that the name Akiva includes the letter Aleph, the numerical value of one. (Note: In some rabbinic texts, the name Akiva may be found with the letter Hei instead, but this name with the Aleph is the standard in both the Mishna and Talmud texts.) But more than the fact that it is particular with Rabbi Akiva's name that concludes Talmud Makkot as it relates to Tisha B'Av and Shabbat Nachamu, there is actually a special connection between Rabbi Akiva and something in this week's Parshat VaEtchanan as relating to the END of his life.
Under Roman rulership at the time, there was a point at which the Roman government forbade practice of religion, and most certainly, the teaching of Torah. However, this did not stop Rabbi Akiva from teaching Torah in public, for he was one who did not take learning Torah for granted, being that he only started learning Torah at the age of 40, and studied hard, in time to become among the greatest Sages of his day. Before long, he was arrested, and eventually executed by scraping off his skin with an iron comb, a sure cruel way to torture someone to death. As this was happening to him, his students who helplessly were watching him being murdered saw that he was saying the Shema, and questioned him about how he was able to do so under such pain. Rabbi Akiva answered that in fact, he always wished to be able to fulfill the verse (the second verse of the Shema as recorded in the Torah) "You shall love Hashem your G-d with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might". Being that "with all your soul" refers to one's life, meaning, that if one has to, he has to give up one's life in love of Hashem not to transgress His Mitzvot upon threat of execution (there are exceptions to this, but one needs to look up the laws on this to know the circumstances of doing so or not). Now that he was in this very situation, this was his prime time for him to show his love for Hashem, even with the pain being inflicted on him in his execution. Following this, as he breathed his last, he passed away saying the word Echad (One) as the final word of the Shema verse - Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad "Hear O Israel, Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is One". (Talmud Berachot 61b)
Anyways, it is this first paragraph of the Shema, declaring Hashem's being One and being commanded to love Him, that is found in the beginning of the sixth Aliyah of this week's Parshat VaEtchanan, corresponding to today, the sixth day of this week (some learn the Aliyah of the Parsha day per day corresponding to the day of the week). In fact, it was exactly a year ago as the sixth day of the week of Parshat VaEtchanan, that the 13th cycle of Daf Yomi began (though the Hebrew date was the 15th of Av), beginning with Talmudic Tractate Berachot which in fact begins with the very subject of the Shema recital; though the above story of Rabbi Akiva's execution is near the end of this tractate being that it is based on the Mishna near the end of the tractate where it states that one is obligated to bless Hashem for misfortune the same way that one blesses Hashem for good happenings, quoting the verse of the commandment of loving Hashem. Now, the reason for this is because Hashem sends misfortunes to us either to remind us to correct our misdeeds, or to serve as an atonement for our past misdeeds, or to be worthy of more reward in the world to come. Whatever the reason, the ultimate result is the same - Hashem sends us misfortune, though we don't initially welcome it beforehand, for our ultimate spiritual good. Hence, bearing in mind that our eternal spiritual bliss, at least in part, may be dependent on our troubles in this world, it will become a little easier to bear what we go through in life. Thus, it certainly is hardly coincidental that we read annually in the Parsha about the Mitzva of loving Hashem within days after Tisha B'Av, bearing in mind that though some of the worst tragedies that occurred to the Jewish people happened on this date, which included Jews being murdered in masses or thrown in chains being sent to exile, all the above reasons of why Hashem sends troubles to an individual were applicable here, and by henceforth being steadfast in Judaism with our love for Hashem, even as demonstrated in many such stories in the Holocaust, such as celebrating Shabbat and Jewish holidays in happiness despite the gloomy environment, revealed the inner beauty of the Jewish people that justifies being Hashem's Chosen Nation, despite much wrongdoing that took place among certain Jewish elements.
Ultimately, if we do choose to do the right thing, the Torah promises plenty of blessings for us - both materialistically and spiritually. One such place in the Torah describing this is at the very beginning of the following Parshat Eikev that we read in the Sefer Torah (Torah Scroll) in the afternoon of Shabbat Va'Etchanan/Nachamu - V'Haya Eikev Tishmeun "It will be that if you will hearken..." continuing on with blessing us for listening to Hashem. Anyways, the word Eikev (which in this context means if) being used here is the name of this following Parsha. It has been noted that in this verse, both Rabbi Akiva and one of his prime students Rabbi Shimon Ben Yochai (author of the teachings of the Zohar) are hinted in these words, where Eikev is similar to Rabbi Akiva's name, and the following word Tishmeun is similar to Rabbi Shimon's name. In any case, being that the name of this Parshat Eikev resembles Rabbi Akiva's name, as per the above story in Tracatate Makkot where the rabbis exclaimed "Akiva, you have comforted us" twice, the last seven weeks of the Hebrew year before Rosh HaShana are called Shiva D'Nechemata "The Seven Weeks of Comfort", during which time, we recite various Haftarot from Sefer Yeshaya (Book of Isaiah) relating to comforting the Jewish people, beginning with the Shabbat of Parshat Va'Etchanan with the opening words Nachamu Nachamu "Be comforted, be comforted", but continues for six more weeks; not being a one time quick comfort thing, but a good period of time showing Hashem's love for us in turn for our loving Hashem even in the worst of times which includes our present period that is called Ikveta D'Meshicha, the footsteps of Moshiach that we can hear coming - V'Haya Eikev Tishmaun "It will be that if you hearken..."
As for the phrase "Rabbi Akiva", it is the Gematria of the word Mishna - 395; and indeed, as the Talmud states (Kiddushin 72b), on the day that Rabbi Akiva died, Rabbi Judah the Prince, also known simply as Rebbe, compiler of the Mishna, was born. This seems to parallel another Talmudic statement that Hashem brings the cure before the blow (Megilla 13). And in this particular case, the Mishna is full of statements of Rabbi Akiva, and had five students, including Rabbi Shimon and Rabbi Meir, who have numerous statements throughout the Mishna. Imagine what the Mishna - and Judaism for that matter - would have been without Rabbi Akiva, who only began learning Torah at the age of 40 with a class of young children learning the Aleph-Bet instead of insisting that it was too late in life to begin learning Torah, and became one of the greatest Torah sages of all time; and even Moses, who was shown a vision of Rabbi Akiva teaching Torah, asked Hashem why He didn't choose to give the Torah to Rabbi Akiva instead of himself!
AND SPEAKING OF MASECHET MAKKOT...
As I just wrote, Hashem brings the cure before the Makka (blow), which is singular for Makkot. And just as I mentioned earlier that in Parshat Eikev, there is a hint to Rabbi Akiva and his student Rabbi Shimon who are hinted to in two consecutive words - Eikev Tishmeun, bearing in mind that the Parsha is named Eikev, being similar to Rabbi Akiva's name; in terms of the other way around, Rabbi Akiva's name is mentioned - not once, but twice, at the end of the Talmudic tractate of Makkot, whose name is the Gematria of the name Shimon - 466.
The connection between Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Shimon in terms of Tractate Makkot do not end here. We see in Mishna Makkot (1:7), where Rabbi Shimon states that just like two witnesses - the minimum amount of witnesses needed for testimony in Beit Din (Jewish court) - aren't executed for false testimony plotting to have someone killed by the court until both of them are proven as such, so too three or more such false witnesses aren't executed until all of them are proven as such. Rabbi Akiva then comments that even though the third witness wasn't technically needed in court since only a minimum of two witnesses are needed for testimony to be accepted, the Torah punishes one who joins with others doing a Aveira (sin) as the original ones doing the sin (in this case, giving false testimony); all the more so is one rewarded joining those who are doing a Mitzva as these original ones doing a Mitzva.
Then, near the end of the Misnaic tractate (3:15), Rabbi Shimon makes another statement pertaining to Mitzvots and Aveirot, saying that one who sits refraining from doing a particular sin that has presented itself, is given reward as doing a Mitzva. Following this, there is another rabbi with the name Shimon who makes a related statement - Rabbi Shimon the son of Rebbe, compiler of the Mishna - that one who refrains from the sin of consuming blood, which is something that is disgusting to ingest, receives reward, or the more so (the same way that Rabbi Akiva worded his above statement) will one who refrains from stealing and illicit relations will be rewarded until the end of generations.
As it turns out, the latter statement of Rabbi Shimon, who refers to Rabbi Shimon Ben Yochai (whenever it states Rabbi Shimon in the Mishna without mention of his father or family name) is in the 33rd Mishna of the tractate whose name Makkot is the Gematria of his name Shimon, and he passed away at the end of the 33rd day of the Omer, or known as Lag BaOmer. Coincidence?
At this point, I should mention that various means of remembering one's Torah learning have been suggested by various rabbis. One such memory method, that is mentioned in the Kabbala, at least in terms of remembering one's Mishna learning, is to state the phrase Lo Eshkach Lah "I will not forget her", which is the Gematria of the word Mishna. But the reason that I mention this particular thing is that the word Lah (her) spells the Hebrew number 35, and the 35th Mishnaic tractate is Tractate Makkot; hence, "I will not forget the 35th Tractate (Makkot)". The reason I say this is because I feel a special affinity towards this tractate, being that the name of this tractate is the Gematria of my name Shimon. Moreover, as the first word Lo (not) spells the Hebrew number 31, I should note that I was born on 1 Iyar, which is the 31st day from 1 Nissan which is Rosh Chodesh Nissan the beginning of the first month of the 12 months, as we count the months in terms of numbers beginning with Nissan being the month of the Exodus, the birth of the Jewish nation. Moreover, the date of my birth, which is Rosh Chodesh Iyar, begins the month that is especially related to the concept of healing, or cure, as noted being that the letters of the name of the month of Iyar are spelled out as the beginning letters of the phrase Ani Hashem Rofecha "I am Hashem your Healer" (Exodus 15:26), which is mentioned in the context of Hashem saying that if we listen to Hashem in following His Mitzvot - using the phrase Shamoa Tishma, double cognate of the word Shemia, which is listening or hearkening, based on which is my name Shimon - then we won't be visited by the sicknesses that Hashem wrought on the Egyptians for their mistreatment of us as slaves in their land, which are known as the Eser Makkot "The Ten Plagues" (Note: In this context, the letters of the month of Iyar are spelled as Aleph, Yud, Reish; but in other contexts, the letters of the month of Iyar are spelled with two of the letter Yud in the middle).
To note, the first of the Ten Plagues was Dam (blood). Presently, I am in my 44th year, and the Hebrew number for 44 is made up of the letters Mem and Dalet, the same letters as the word Dam. So at this point, I want to make mention of the timing of the Ten Plagues.
There is actually a difference of opinion about the timing of these plagues. According to Rabbeiu Sa'adya Gaon, each plague which take place during the course of 23 days, was proceeded by a week of warning, and followed by a week of recuperation before the warning of the next plague. The only exceptions to this were the last two plagues, in which the plague of darkness was only for three days, and the final plague of the smiting of the firstborn happened instantly. In any case, the warning and beginning of the first plague of blood began in the month of Iyar.
According to Rabbeinu Bechaye, each plague lasted for a week, beginning on the 22nd of any given Hebrew month and ending on the 28th of the month. Again, what differs here are the last two plagues. The plague of darkness, unlike with the preceding eight plagues that were proceeded with three weeks warning (a couple of them were without warning, but still had the same amount of waiting period between one plague and the next), began shortly after just getting over the previous plague with no warning, which occurred on the first seven days of Nissan; and then for the final plague of the smiting of the firstborn, there was one week of warning, and then while the plague itself occurred in one brief moment, there was a week burial in the aftermath of all the smitten firstborn Egyptians. In any case, the warning of the first plague of blood began from the beginning of the month of Av, and the plague itself began on the 22nd of Av.
Now mind you, unlike in Halacha in which two give opinions, where though the law can only follow one of these opinions, both are still considered valid in terms of being "the words of the Living G-d"; when it comes to historical facts, only one of the opinions at most can be correct, at least in terms of when something actually took place. However, I should admit, both of these rabbinical opinions as to the timing of the months within the year before the Exodus for these plagues have a basis.
First, in terms of Rabbeinu Bechaye's opinion, the first plague of blood with its warning took place in the month of Av, whose corresponding tribe is Shimon, whose name in turn is the Gematria of the word Makkot (plagues). Moreover, as I mentioned earlier, Hashem told the Jewish people that if they surely hearken to Him, they won't be visited with the plagues that He wrought on the Egyptians, noting that the Hebrew for hearkening used in this context is Shamoa Tishma, a double phrase that is similar to the name Shimon,whose corresponding month was the very month of the first of these plague.
Now, in terms of Rabbeinu Sa'adya Gaon's opinion, the first plague begin in the month of Iyar that is related to the concept of healing that is hinted by Hashem's statement to the Jewish people in stark contrast to the plagues that He visited on the Egyptians. Next, in terms of the amount of days for the plagues, there were 23 days for each of the first eight Makkot. And in terms of Tractate Makkot, there are 23 Dafim (double sided pages) to this Talmudic tractate. For the ninth Makka of darkness, there were three days; and corresponding to this, there are three chapters to Tractate Makkot.
In fact, in Tractate Sanhedrin (1:2) - the 34th Mishnaic tractate which is followed by Tractate Makkot which consists of 34 Mishnayot - it begins stating that the punishment of lashes, which is called Makkot in the Mishna though normally called Malkut, is judged by a tribunal of three, with a difference of opinion by Rabbi Yishmael that it is judged by a tribunal of 23; thus noting the striking parallel of the number of chapters and the number of Dafim to the Talmudic tractate of Makkot, respectively.
Rabbi Nachman Kahane, Shlita (brother of Rabbi Meir Kahane, may Hashem avenge his blood), in his introduction to his Tosfot explanation commentary in his book Mei Menuchot on Tractate Makkot, notes that this tractate corresponds to the Three Weeks (Bein HaMetzarim) which is from 17 Tammuz to 9 Av (Tisha B'Av) which marks the saddest period of the Jewish calendar. Aside from the fact that this tractate whose meaning means "blows", consists of THREE chapters, it deals with the very types of BLOWS that we Jews have gone through in our trying times as symbolized by the themes of these three chapters.
Chapter 1 - Punishment for false witnesses who plotted to get an innocent person punished by the court. It's nothing new for Jews, we have been falsely accused by the world for whatever goes wrong for non-Jews all throughout the milleniums - including sickness, recession, and blood libels.
Chapter 2 - Exile for those who accidentally killed someone. We Jews have been the most exiled nation on earth.
Chapter 3 - Lashes prescribed by the court for various sins. We Jews have been beaten by non-Jews as early as the Egyptian slavery.
Now, the phase used describing the Three Weeks is Bein HaMetzarim (between the straits) which comes from the end of the THIRD verse of Eicha (Book of Lamentations) that we recite on Tisha B'Av. Moreover, the word Metzarim, aside from the Hebrew vowels, is spelled as the same word as Mitzrayim (Egypt) or Mitzrim (Egyptians), for in fact, our saddest three week period in the Jewish calendar is reminiscent of our past Egyptian slavery; for just as we experienced the first Redemption from Egypt; so too, following the Three Weeks of mourning ending with Tisha B'Av, the date of the birth of Moshiach - meaning, the potential of Moshiach coming began on this date even immediately following the destruction of the Temple - when we eagerly await our final Redemption.
Now, while Halachicly, the Three Weeks begin on the 17th of Tammuz, known as Shiva Asar B'Tammuz, on which we fast, the source of various tragedies that befell the Jewish people began from the events that happened from noontime on the day before, the 16th of Tammuz, in connection with the sin of the Golden Calf, when they assumed that Moses would return from his 40 day retreat on Mt. Sinai receiving the Torah, but miscalculated the timing of his return one day early. When they saw that Moses didn't return to them when they thought he would, Satan showed them a vision of Moses being dead, and it was from this that they sought a godlike figure which was made on that day via black magic, but it was on the following morning of the 17th of Tammuz that they actually worshiped it.
In any event, the main event that we fast over on the 17th of Tammuz is of the Roman enemies breaching the wall of Jerusalem that shortly led to the destruction of the Temple on the 9th of Av. And at this, the burning of the Temple actually began on the 9th of Av, while most of the burning happened on the 10th of Av; however, since the worst part of a tragedy is the beginning of it, it is on the 9th of Av that we fast and mourn (unless it falls out on Shabbat, in which case, we fast on the following day, the 10th of Av). In any case, even though we cease our fasting and major mourning at the end of the 9th of Av, certain laws of mourning that were applicable before Tisha B'Av are continued until the noontime of the 10th of Av. Hence, from noontime of the 16th of Tammuz which was the original source of our troubles of Shiva Asar B'Tammuz until noontime of the 10th of Av when the mourning ceases according to Halacha, there are exactly 23 days as per the noon hour of the day.
So as we see, the number 23 really stands out in terms of troubles, for according to Rabbeinu Sa'adya Gaon, the Egyptians were punished for 23 days with the first eight plagues, and there are 23 Dafim to the Talmudic tractate Makkot that is most related to this concept both by name and the subject matter. Correspondingly, according to this opinion that for the NINTH plague of darkness, it lasted for THREE days, and it is on the DARKEST day of the Jewish calendar, the NINTH of Av, the month that Kabbalistically corresponds to the NINTH letter Teit whose numerical value is NINE that culminates the Three Weeks period, and there are three chapters to the Mishnaic tractate Makkot. Accordingly, according to the opinion of Rabbeinu Bechaye, the Egyptians has THREE WEEKS of warning before any of the first eight plagues, and hence, it was on the 22nd day (of the month) that one of these plagues began, just as in our case, we have THREE WEEKS from Shiva Asar B'Tammuz during which time our mourning increases as time goes, and it is on the 22nd day - Tisha B'Av, that we feel the greatest impact of our spiritual loss.
Another way of looking at the comparison between the plagues and the saddest period of the Jewish calendar is that corresponding to the TEN plagues, are the first TEN days of Av, the highlight of our mourning, in which Tisha B'Av - the NINTH of Av, the darkest day of our calendar, corresponds to the Egyptian plague of DARKNESS, the NINTH plague. We can also look at this having in mind that there are 22 days from Shiva Asar B'Tammuz through Tisha B'Av that correspond to the 22 letters of the Aleph-Beit; hence, it is Tisha B'Av that corresponds to Tav, the LAST letter. With this said, the LAST Egyptian plague was the smiting of the first born, called Makat Bechorot, in which the LAST letter in both words ends with the LAST letter Tav/Sav, noting that this is the only one of the 10 plagues in which the wording of Makka is used. It was this plague that took place exactly at midnight of the 15th of Nissan, 2448, the date of the Exodus that took place exactly 400 years after the birth of Issac that took place on the 15th of Nissan, 2048, as per what Hashem told Isaac's father Abraham that his children will be strangers in a land that doesn't belong to them and will be enslaved for 400 years which began with Isaac's birth since at that time, Israel, where Abraham and Isaac where living at the time, did not belong yet to the Jewish people until they finally came to Israel as a nation, even though the slavery in Egypt would happen at a much later time within the 400 year period. In any case, it is the letter Tav, which is the numerical value of 400 that corresponds especially to the date of the Exodus - both in terms of the 10th plague as connected to the letter Tav that happened on this date, as well as the Exodus itself.
Now that we have a connection here with the letter Tav between the date of the Exodus which is the first day of Passover and Tisha B'Av, it is mentioned in Halacha (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim Chapter 428) that on the same day of the week that the first day of Passover falls out on, that the upcoming Tisha B'Av also falls out on; and the way to remember this are the corresponding opposite letters which are the first letter Aleph=1 for the first day of Passover, and the last letter Tav that begins the name of the date of 9 Av- Tisha B'Av; noting that for the first 10 numbers, the letter Tav begins the Hebrew word particularly for the number nine. And for corresponding opposites, the first day of Passover marks our Redemption as we left Egypt on this date, and Tisha B'Av marks our exile, for it was on this day that the enemy took masses of Jews along with them into exile at the time of the destruction of the Temple on this date. And in our way of symbolizing this, we eat a hard boiled egg, a symbol of mourning, both at the Seder on the first night of Passover (outside of Israel, also on the second night of Passover) which reminds us of the sacrificial meat that we used to eat on the holiday during the times of the Temple that we await for once again, and at the concluding meal shortly before the commencement of Tisha B'Av while sitting on the ground as a mourner does. In connection with this, the Talmudic tractate that is called Beitza (egg), which is about the laws of Yom Tov (Jewish holidays), consists of 39 Dafim, and typically, the Beit Din administered 39 lashes for certain sins, the subject of the third and final chapter of Tractate Makkot.
Having mentioned the Seder, at which we read the Haggada, we see that the featured person of this post - Rabbi Akiva - is mentioned more than once in the reading. First, we mention of a group of rabbis that include Rabbi Akiva who were so involved in telling over the story of the Exodus at the Seder all night long and beyond, that they had to be reminded by their students in the morning to say the Shema before the prescribed time for saying it would pass. And then, in terms of how many plagues that the Egyptians were visited with both in Egypt and at the Reed Sea, as one of three opinions, Rabbi Akiva states that each of the 10 plagues in Egypt were divided up into a total of 50 plagues, and that each of the 50 plagues at the Reed Sea were divided up into a total of 250 plagues.
And so we see with Rabbi Akiva, that he is especially connected to both the first day of Passover as well as Tisha B'Av in terms of the theme at the end of the Talmudic tractate Makkot about the ruins of the Temple and the prophecy in terms of our future Redemption. For in fact, we see that the basic difference between the words Gola (exile) and Geula (redemption) is that the latter word includes the letter Aleph, which especially represents the first day of Passover which marks our first Redemption. And in Rabbi Akiva's name which is mentioned twice at the end of the Talmudic tractate Makkot, it is the Aleph that is at the end of his name, symbolizing the concept of our final Redemption after which there will be no more exiles.
No misspelling here. I do plan on concluding this post in terms of Rabbi Akiva, but first, I want to write a bit about another Tanaic Sage whose name contains the same letters as Rabbi Akiva' name, except that in this Sage's name, aside from a little difference in the vowels, the letter Beit/Veit comes before the letter Yud. Otherwise, he is known as Akavya ben Mahallalel.
By now, you probably figured it out. His name begins the third chapter of Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers), whose name is mentioned at least once or four times a year, depending on how many times one recites a chapter of Pirkei Avot on Shabbat every year (Ashkenazic Jews recite it four times between Passover and Rosh HaShana, and Sephardic Jews recite it once between Passover and Shavuot). In any case, one may wonder how this Sage got such a prominent position whose name begins a chapter of Mishna, also bearing in mind that there is a custom to learn chapters of Mishna in memory of a deceased, learning chapters whose first letters make up the name of the deceased. In this case, the first letter is Ayin, from Akavya's name, and there are only 11 chapters among the 523 chapters of Mishna to pick from which begin with the letter Ayin.
To better appreciate the significance of the name of this Sage beginning the third chapter of Pirkei Avot, it is Moshe Rabbeinu's name that starts off Pirkei Avot in the first chapter, and the title of Rebbe - referring to Rabbi Judah the Prince, compiler of the Mishna - which starts off the second chapter. So for the third chapter, one would think that a Sage such as Rabbi Akiva would begin this third chapter; and in fact, he is mentioned in this chapter, but only much later on. In fact, looking at this chapter, there are quite a few Sages mentioned whose names are popular in the Mishna. So, why is Akavya ben Mahallalel the one picked to begin the third chapter, when he is hardly mentioned elsewhere in the Mishna?
The key to this is in fact a story about him in another place in the Mishna (Eduyot 5:6-7) where is praised stating that there was no found among all the Jews who came to the Temple who were as wise in Torah learning and having fear of sin as him. While many a Sage could be described as such in various generations, there is a story recounted here about his chance to become the Av Beit Din, the vice-president of the Sanhedrin. But there was a catch to this. The ones who offered him this position told him that this would be conditional on retracting four halachic statements that he made to concur with theirs. Now, he could have easily rationalized that since both Halachic opinions are considered "words of the Living G-d, and that in order to make peace, it would be O.K. to give in for only four Halachic decisions to have the chance and merit to be only second in charge to the president of the Sanhedrin in teaching and transmitting the laws of the Torah. However, Akavya wasn't one to be bought off, even if it meant that he wouldn't have the opportunity to teach Torah.
Moreover, as the next Mishna notes, while on his deathbed, he ordered his son to teach on his behalf the opposite of his decisions on the above four Halachic issues. When his son questioned this, Akavya told him that the decisions that he held by were based on the majority decision on the Halachic issues in his time that he heard, and the rabbis who held the opposing views heard them from a majority on their part. However, it was a new genearation now, and his son heard Akavya's Halachic rulings only from him, while he heard the opposing views from a clear majority, so now he was to follow their Halachic decisions on the four issues , as usually, the Halacha follows the decision of the majority of rabbis.
And finally, when his son asked his father Akavya to secure him a position in the Jewish community, he refused to, telling him that it is only his good deeds, or otherwise, that would determine if this would happen.
What a stark contrast between the sage Akavya and today's politicians in the Knesset, especially most of the "religious" ones! Forget about the non-observant, left-wing/liberal/Democratic Jewish politicians who weren't raised the Torah way and care basically about money, fame, power, etc. However, unlike Kahane and perhaps a handful of others who served their time in the Knesset, most of the others, though they may have been raised with a Torah education, keep Shabbat, eat Kosher, wear a skullcap or head covering, sooner or later, make some statement that shows that at the very least, they aren't totally fearing of G-d or sin, but rather, fearing of what the Prime Monster of the Knesset will say or do in retaliation, who in turn, makes major damaging decisions to the Jewish people and Israel based on what the United States, the United Nations, the Arabs/Moslems, the world, the media, will say or do in retaliation. Of course, this isn't limited to the Knesset, but in the IDF, the police, the secular Israeli court, attorneys - men or women who may seem to have an observant Jewish lifestyle will put the anti-Torah secular law above the Torah, and most of whom would not even think of asking a rabbi for a Halachic decision, let alone follow it in full faith in Hashem, regardless of the temporary consequences of this world.
Oh, by the way, unlike most community rabbis in yesterday Europe who were quite holy and pure, and weren't tempted even by money despite most of them having lived in poverty despite their rabbinical position; today ironically, in the Holy Land of Israel, many a rabbi - regardless of the Hasidic camp, the Haredi camp, the Dati Leumi camp, are more into camping out with materialism than truly caring for what is right for the Jewish people and Israel; let alone outside of Israel, especially in the materialistic United States, where Modern Orthodox rabbis, for a lack of a better term, would have been far better off being an authentic politician in the government, as some of them twist the Torah, for example, to show how the IDF is doing a wonderful job being humane by flying down leaflets from the helicopters to the Arab civilians in Gaza warning them of an upcoming attack from the IDF to get rid of hidden bombs in residences. These political rabbis for the Satan are right; most unfortunately, the IDF heads are wonderful for our Arab enemies, who are incidentally, the same ones who threw and constantly throw Jews from their homes in "settlements", and will continue doing so until the evil regime dominating Israel will cease. However, there is no valid Halachic difference of opinion that they can give for the Talmudic statement that one who is merciful to the cruel will at the end be cruel to the merciful, learning this especially from Saul, the official first king of the Jewish people, who was a little humane to Amalek, which included the Amalekite king and the animals that he intended to sacrifice to Hashem, beginning with his logic to himself "If the Amalekite men hurt the Jews, what did the women do? If the women hurt the Jews, what did the childen do?" In fact, Hashem gave orders for Saul to obliterate even the babies of the anti-Semitic Amalek nation - no ifs, ands, or buts.
And EVEN MORE CERTAINLY IN OUR CASE TODAY, since we have been in a constant war with these Arabs since 1948 with the founding of what is called the State of Israel - and I don't mean the outright wars, but the constant wars from our Arab enemies every time that anyone of them attacks a Jew in any way, shape or form, which happens on a daily basis; believe it or not, there are NO INNOCENT CIVILIANS as far as we are concerned, and IT IS FORBIDDEN according to Torah law TO WARN THESE ARAB "CIVILIANS"; and instead, we are supposed to do anything and everything to assure that no more Jews than necessary will fall in the line of battle duty, even if it means that Arab babies will be killed in the process if that is what it takes to prevent even one Jew, regardless of religious or non-religious affiliation, from being ever only injured in the slightest way.
Perhaps the above is a little too hard for some Modern Orthodox rabbis in the States to swallow, nay, this is even hard for many rabbis living in Israel, who are paid well by the government for their respective rabbinical positions, to swallow. However, if they ever learned the Mishnayot in Tractate Eduyot about Akavya ben-Mahallalel, who could have easily rationalized to change his teachings on his opinions in view of a different majority, which would not necessarily have been a breach in Halacha, but nevertheless, gave up an opportunity of teaching Torah - the greatest Mitzva and merit of the Torah - when given this choice; they will one day have to face the Big Judge and explain why they put politics above Torah, which somehow caused Jews to be murdered, maimed and injured by our enemies as a result of these rabbis' fearing the anti-Torah government instead of fearing Hashem and His Torah, who should have used their influence to prevent any concessions, compromises, or compassions towards our enemies, but allowed our enemies, who saw how the Israeli government being weak in fear of everyone and everything but the One, to constantly attack us.
And now, let us see what Akavya ben-Mahallalel in the Mishna of Pirkei Avot has to tell us: "Look at three things, and you will not come to sin. Know where you are coming from, where you are coming to, and before Whom you will one day have to give an accounting to. Where do you come from? From a putrid drop. Where are you coming to? To a place of dirt, maggots, and worms. And before Whom are you going to one day have to give an accounting to? Before the King, the King of kings, the Holy One Blessed Be He."
You see, in life, we are constantly burdened about to whom we will have to give an accounting to besides Hashem - the boss, the wife, our friends, etc. Sometimes, it could be a good thing, for after all, for example, it is in fact a sin not to perform according to the boss' terms if we are getting paid for our work. And for others, fearing that their wives will find out if they cheated on them will prevent them from fooling around, or at least not overnight. But regardless, only one who fears Hashem and afraid to commit a sin, knowing that one day, he will be held accountable for any misdeeds, will be sure not to cheat the boss, not to fool around with women with whom he is forbidden to be with, not assist with making policies that will G-d forbid hurt one's Jewish brethren even to the extent to being less popular or being hated or not being paid as well if not fired or not re-elected. Indeed, this is the Akavya ben Mahallalel method of being a good Jew, the same method that the likes of Kahane and Dr. Michael Ben-Ari, Shlita use in the corrupt world of politics that abhors our Holy Land and the holy Torah with the help of Lapid, Piron, and Bennett in their own way of assisting Prime Monster Bibi Netanyahu to desecrate our Holy Land and holy Torah institutions,
Perhaps the sage Akavya did not have the good fortune of having any Jews bear his holy name. However, no doubt that he merited having the reward of having his name as the beginning word of the third chapter of Pirkei Avot due in part to turning down the rabbinical court position as a result of refusing to change what he knew to be the correct Halacha, regardless of whatever rabbis held otherwise. It was this same way of thinking that guided him to the extent that he wouldn't get his son any rabbinical or political positions in the Jewish community; for after all, if someone else would be more qualified, why should everyone loose out by having his son take a leader position by using his clout to get him promoted if he wouldn't do such a good job as someone else. At least for Akavya, his son wouldn't be in power due to his father, but only if he would be worthy himself of a position in the Jewish community. Indeed, many a Jewish politician have much to learn from Akavya!
Rabbi Akiva and Akavya ben Mahallalel. Two sages with names having the same exact letters. Two sages not fearing what others would say. Two sages, bearing in mind that at the end of one's life, they would be facing the One, according to the last letter of their names - the Aleph, which is the numerical value of one, accounting for how they spent their lives, not fearing what the children classmates would say or laugh at a 40 year old man learning with them, not giving in to pressure to change Halacha even if other rabbis said otherwise. Two sages, following in the footsteps of one with a similar name Yaakov - Jacob our forefather, who lived the Torah of truth way of life, not looking to crook others for personal gain as his evil brother Esau did. As Rashi comments at the beginning of Parshat Eikev on the word Eikev which forms the basis of the names Yaakov, Akiva and Akavya - that one is to perform even the Mitzvot that tend to be trodden down upon by others with their Eikev (heel) because they are looked down upon as insignificant or not popular. For when it comes to following the Commandments of the King, there is no separation of categories of Mitzvot, no difference between the Mitzvot that are more convenient or less convenient, but as far as one is concerned - they are all equal because they have been equally commanded by Hashem to perform.
HASHEM WILL BE ONE AT THE END
Actually, Hashem has always been only One G-d. However, the problem with this world until now is that not everyone recognizes this fact. And I don't mean only non-Jews who worship other deities, with or without belief in Hashem. I refer specifically to those who twist the Torah, and use Torah for their own selfish gain, including some rabbis, believing in an anti-Torah government because it is heading the Medinat Yisrael "State of Israel" that has very sadly followed the ways of other nations who rule their respective countries, and then these so called Zionist rabbis and all exclaim that everyone has to follow what the corrupt Knesset politicians claim has to be done, even to the extent to throwing out Jews from homes, even to the extent of handing over parts of Israel, or giving autonomy of these areas, into the murderous bloody hands of our avowed and sworn Arab/Moslem enemies, who have proven way beyond a shadow of a doubt that being given free land is only a step in the process of throwing Jews into the sea and taking over our Holy Land as "Palestine".
Meanwhile, let us rewind back in Jewish history to Abraham our forefather, the first Jew, who while being the ancestor of both Jews and Arabs, the Bible is very clear as to who are his spiritual descendants and inheritors "for it is through Isaac that will be called your seed". Moreover, after the account of Abraham's passing, the Torah devotes seven verses to Abraham's Arab descendnts, and then back to business with his son Isaac "These are the accountings of Isaac son of Abraham, Abraham bore Isaac".
A little later on, Hashem speaks to Isaac, telling him that he and his descendants will inherit the Holy Land as per His oath to his father Abraham because of his allegiance to Him - Eikev Asher Shama Avraham B'Koli "because Abraham listened to My voice and he observed...My Torah" (Genesis 26:5). Noting use of the word Eikev here, it is used as the meaning "because". In the beginning of Parshat Eikev, this word is used as the meaning "if". Yet, this word Eikev is associated in both places in terms of following Hashem's Mitzvot.
But perhaps, this word in the context about Abraham, hints to his grandson Yaakov whose name is based on this word, for it was Yaakov, of the three Avot (Patriarchs) who was the Torah scholar par excellence. In any case, we see later how Yaakov was confronted by an angel, whom our rabbis say, was Yaakov's evil brother Esau's guardian angel, who became the guardian angel of his descendants, the nation of Edom. In the heat of the night, the angel managed to injure Jacob's thigh that is called the Gid HaNashe, as a result of which, we Jews are forbidden to eat this part of the animal, which is the first of the 365 Lo Ta'aseh (Negative/Prohibitive) Mitzvot of the Torah that correspond to the 365 days of the year, and it is this particular Mitzva that corresponds to the day of Tisha B'Av, which marks the date of the destruction of our Temple, the second time around being done by the nation of Edom (Rome). Anyways, it was after this that Yaakov wouldn't let go of the angel until the angel informed him of his new name - Yisrael, which includes the letters making up the word Rosh (head), in sharp contrast to his first name Yaakov based on the bottom of the body. And hence, what we see here is that while in exile, we are treated as the lowest form of human race; following our future Redemption, we will rise as the head of the nations - as the ultimate fulfillment of our name Yisrael - once and for all.
We see that in Abraham's name, that the first letter is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet - Aleph, most fitting for Abraham who was the first to spread the belief in monotheism - the belief in one G-d. In time, Hashem promised him that He would give the Land of Israel to his descendants, the Jewish people. When it was time, it was Joshua, a descendant of Ephraim via parental line, who led the Jews to Israel. The name of Ephraim, just like Abraham's name, begins with an Aleph and ends with a Mem Sophit. On the other side of the coin, the name of Edom, the name of the nation who destroyed our Temple last, who caused the Jews to be in exile for nearly a third of the slated 6,000 years of the world's existence, also begins with an Aleph and ends with a Mem Sophit.
Moreover, Edom is presently associated with the United States of America, as the name Edom is the Gematria of 51, and the U.S.A. consists of 50 states and its capitol Washington D.C. which is a state in itself for all practical purposes. And presently, it's being headed by its evil 44th president, Barack Hussein Obama, bearing in mind that the Hebrew number for 44 consists of the letters Mem and Dalet, which are two of the four letters of the name Edom. And while Obama continuously pressures Israel do everything that is everything against Israel's interest, causing much bloodshed of Jews in the long run, G-d forbid, bearing in mind that the Hebrew word for bloodshed - Dam, consists of the same letters as the number 44 in Hebrew, what he doesn't realize is that at the end, we Jews - who observe the Mitzva of Brit Mila (circumcision) which involves the Dam Brit "blood of circumcision", the 2nd Mitzva of the Torah first commanded to Abraham, which is mentioned in the Torah before the Mitzva of Gid HaNashe, the 3rd Mitzva of the Torah which was the result of a different part of the body that was injured in Yaakov's body from the angel of Edom - will win out at the end, while Obama and his ilk will be defeated when in the future of the Messianic Era, the angel of Edom will be slaughtered, which will signal the downfall of the United States as a world power, while Israel will be the world power; measure for measure for the United States presently pressuring Israel to lower itself.
"Son of man, those who inherit the ruins of Israel boast "Abraham was one man and he inherited the land; but we are many, and so the land is now given to us as an inheritance"" (Ezekiel 33:24). Looking at the chapter number and verse number of this verse, when we put the two numbers together, this reads 3324. For indeed, there are exactly 3,324 years from Tisha B'Av 2449, the date on which the Jews cried like babies, believing the evil report of the Spies who said that it would be impossible for us to conquer the Holy Land, until this past Tisha B'Av in this year 5773 that just passed, when at this time, the evil Obama, along with the evil John Kerry - whom Obama endorsed as the Democratic presidential candidate back on Tisha B'Av 2004 - who has joined the club of pressuring Israel to give in to the "peace" concessions of the Arabs, may both of their names and rememberances be forever be blotted out, are pressuring Israel more than ever, attempting to injure the Gid HaNashe of the Jewish people one more time. This is aside from the fact that Obama keeps refusing our requests to release Jonathan Pollard, who was born on Tisha B'Av, being imprisoned illegally way beyond the maximum sentence for his one count of giving classified information to an ally nation of four years maximum imprisonment, but has already spent more than 10,000 days in prison for the sole reason of being a Jew. But what they don't realize is that Abraham, whose name is the Gematria of 248 corresponding to the 248 Mitzvot Aseh (Positive/Performative Commandments) and the 248 limbs of a person, became this name from his original name Abram which was without the letter Hei at first, as a result of performing the BRIT Mila, which will eventually conquer the United States, called in Hebrew Artzot HaBRIT, which is currently the narrator of the verse in Ezekiel.
But the evil politicians of the United States are correct. Echad Haya Avraham "Abraham was one". He is the first ONE who spread the belief in the ONE throughout the known world in his time. And as Hashem declares "I am the first and I am the last, and besides Me, there is no god" (Isaiah 44:6). That is, except for the one Elokim (G-d), whose name also begins with an Aleph and ends with a Mem Sophit, Who will at the end of our long Edomite exile, raise up high the spiritual descendants of Abraham, while lowering the nation of Edom, (spiritual) descendants of Esau, whose heel was being held on to by his brother Jacob, father of the twelve tribes of Israel, on their way out of the womb of their mother Rebecca.
And at the rock bottom of our Jewish history involving Rabbi Akiva, whose name ends with an Aleph, who was murdered by Edom (Rome), whose name begins with an Aleph, while it seemed that Edom had the upper hand over Rabbi Akiva, who was the ultimate representative of the Torah in his day, it was Rabbi Akiva who won out at the end, at least spiritually, with his last breath finishing the first sentence of Shema Yisrael - with the word Echad (One). To note, this story in the Talmud (Berachot 61), was learned last worldwide in this present 13th cycle of the Daf Yomi, bearing in mind that the word Echad is the Gematria of 13, on the FIRST day of Sukkot, which is represented by Abraham of the Seven Heavenly Guests (Ushpizin) of the seven days of Sukkot. And bearing in mind of the concept of ONE as especially related to Abraham, the Haftara of the first day of Sukkot includes the verse "Hashem will be King over the whole world, on that day, Hashem will be One, and His name will be One" (Zechariah 14:9), which is quoted by Rashi on his explanation on the sentence of Shema Yisrael which he explains that Hashem Who is our G-d today (as the One G-d today), will be Hashem as One in the future when Hashem will be King over the entire world when everyone will recognize that Hashem is One, the same One who first became news to the world thanks to Abraham, and hasn't changed, even though the world has yet to acknowledge this, but AT THE END of our long exile, the world nations will admit Hashem as ONE, as the ultimate Boss in charge, Who will make it crystal clear beyond the pages of the Bible that Israel belongs to the ONE nation who is called Israel.