Rabbi Akiva -

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Rabbi Akiva

Rabbi Akiva was accustomed to saying "Everything Hashem does is for the good". Once Rabbi Akiva was traveling with a donkey, rooster, and candle and when night came he tried to find lodging in a nearby village only to be turned away. Although Rabbi Akiva was forced to spend the night in the field, he did not lament his fate. Instead his reaction was "Everything Hashem does is for the best. A wind came and blew out his candle, a cat ate his rooster, and a lion came and ate his donkey, and again Rabbi Akiva's reaction was "Everything that Hashem does is for the best". That night bandits came and took the entire town captive, while Rabbi Akiva who was sleeping in the field went unnoticed and thus was spared. When Rabbi Akiva realized what happened he said, "Didn't I tell you that everything that Hashem does is for the best"?" If the candle, rooster or donkey would have been around, the bandits would have seen or heard them and would have also captured Rabbi Akiva.

After the Romans destroyed the Temple, the emperor promised to rebuild the city, but his plan was to rebuild the Beit Hamikdash as a temple for idol worship to the Roman god, Jupiter. This outrageous act, along with the harsh laws forbidding the study of Torah and the observance of many of the mitzvot, led to the Bar Kochba against the Romans.

While Bar Kochba was the military commander of the revolt, the spiritual leader was Rabbi Akiva. He had such faith in Bar Kochba that he believed him to be the Moshiach, which, unfortunately, he was not. It was during the Bar Kochba revolt that the 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva's students died in a plague. Rabbi Akiva understood this plague to be a result of the students lack of respect for each other, and, despite how much Torah they knew, they didnt have good midot. Devastated by the death of his pupils, and the failure of the Bar Kochba revolt, Rabbi Akiva nevertheless went on and continued teaching his surviving students.

After the second Temple was destroyed, Rabbi Akiva was traveling through Jerusalem with three other scholars Rabbi Gamliel, Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah and Rabbi Yehoshuah. As they came to the spot where the Temple had stood, a fox darted out from the holy ruins. Rabbi Gamliel, Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah and Rabbi Yehoshuah started crying when they saw wild animals living in the place where the Temple had stood, but Rabbi Akiva laughed. I dont understand! exclaimed Rabbi Gamliel. Why are you laughing?!?

Rabbi Akiva answered with a question. Why are you crying? Rabbi Gamliel held back his tears as he spoke. Its just like the famous verse, . . .for MountZion lies desolate, foxes prowl over it. . . Rabbi Akivas laughed again. Thats it! Weve seen that prophecy come to pass, so we can surely expect our future to be bright! Remember this verse? . . . Old men and old women will once again sit in the streets of Jerusalem . . . and the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls playing. . . Now Im sure that will come to pass as well! Akivas friends dried their eyes. Thank you! they shouted, Youve reminded us that our spirits will never be defeated!

Rabbi Akiva was once an irreligious shepherd who hated Torah and anything having to do with it. When Rachel, the daughter of the rich Kalba Savua fell in love with him (he was working for her father) she realized that he had potential to be a very great man. But before she would marry him, she made him promise to study Torah. Since he was 40 years old and couldn't even write his name, Akiva wasn't sure that he could succeed in learning. But one day, while shepherding his flocks, he saw a hollowed-out rock resting under a waterfall. He wondered how the rock, one of Nature's hardest substances, had been hollowed out. When he was told that the water had, over a long period of time, made the drastic change in the rock, by hitting it drop after drop, he said; "If a rock, though extremely hard, can be hollowed out by water, how much more so should it be possible for Torah, which is compared to water, to change my heart, which is soft. I will begin to study it, and try to become a Torah scholar. No matter how tough things seem, they can always change for the better! Akiva then, at the age of 40, went to sit in the kindergarten to learn alef-bet. He became one of the greatest rabbis that ever lived, returning to Rachel as a great Torah scholar with 12 000 students!

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