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December 28, 2014 / 6 Tevet, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘Rabi Akiva’

Rabi Akiva Clarifies

Friday, September 14th, 2012

The Strength Of Suffering

Man does not have it easy in this world. Sufferings are often visited upon him tempting him to curse his fate and ask why the Almighty punishes him so. But suffering has great value and serves a vital purpose. Rabi Akiva teaches this a clear and beautiful way.

Rabi Eliezer had been very ill and suffered a great deal. Fortunately, G-d had mercy upon the great sage and moved him from death’s door. As he improved, his devoted students came to visit him to voice their love and to give thanks that he had recovered.

“You are more important to us than the rain from heaven,” said Rabi Tarfon, “for rain is only important in this world but you, our Rebbe, are important both in this world and in the World to Come.”

“You are more important to us than the rays of the sun” declared Rabi Yehoshua, “for the sun is only vital to us in this world and not in the World to come.

“More,” said Rabi Elazar ben Azarya, “our Rebbe is more important to us than our own parents. They only bring us into this world but our Rebbe guides us in this world and leads us into the World to Come.”

When it was Rabi Akiva’s turn to comfort his master, he rose and said:

“Sweet are our sufferings.”

Everyone stared at Rabi Akiva, puzzled at the meaning of his words. Even Rabi Eliezer looked at his student and said to those around him:

“Let me sit up so that I may better hear and understand Akiva’s words.”

When he was propped up by his students, Rabi Eliezer asked:

“Tell me, my son, what did you mean when you said that our sufferings are sweet and dear to us. How do you know such a thing?”

“I have learned this from King Chizkiyahu,” Rabi Akiva replied. “Here was a great scholar and king who was able to teach Torah to all of Israel, but he was unable to teach his own son, Menashe, the ways of goodness and truth. His son walked on the path of wickedness and there was nothing the father could do.

“It was only when the Assyrian hordes captured him and tortured him and made his life bitter that he turned his eyes to Heaven and prayed to the Almighty.

“We see, therefore, that suffering, although apparently bitter, was the one thing that enabled a sinner to return unto G-d. Are we not justified then in saying that suffering is dear and sweet to man?”

The Right To Heal

There are certain misguided souls who believe that any nature which comes from G-d, must not be tampered with and should be allowed to take its course. Thus, when an illness strikes them or someone they love, they refuse to use the power of medicine, contending that this is going against the Will of G-d.

This is not the Jewish way as we can see from the following story:

One day, as Rabi Akiva and Rabi Yehoshua walked along the streets of Jerusalem engrossed in Torah conversation, a man looking weak and sickly approached them:

“Forgive me, Rebbe, for interrupting you but I am in need of assistance.”

“We will be glad to help you if we are able,” said the scholars.

“I am a very sick man and I suffer greatly. I have gone to many doctors who are unable to help me. Perhaps you can.”

The two sages, aside from being great Torah scholars, were also well versed in the science of medicine. They asked the man:

“What are your symptoms so that we may be able to diagnose your case?”

The man detailed his symptoms and they said:

“If you eat this specific food and drink this specific drink you will find yourself getting better.”

The man thanked them profusely and hurried away to do as they said.

One of the inhabitants of Jerusalem had watched the scene and heard the conversation. Walking over to Rabi Akiva and Rabi Yehoshua he asked:

“Tell me, who made this man ill?”

“Why, surely it was the Almighty,” replied the sages. “He is the One who moves all things in this world.”

The Story of Rabi Shimon Bar Yochai

Friday, May 11th, 2012

Lag B’Omer is the yahrzeit (anniversary of the death) of Rabi Shimon bar Yochai. Thousands visit his grave in Meron to pay homage to this tzaddik and leader in Israel.

Rabi Shimon was well-known as a man who performed miracles. As a disciple of the great Rabi Akiva, he carried on the tradition of Torah. In his earlier years, Rabi Shimon and his father advocated cooperating with the Roman government. They did not participate in the revolt of Bar Kochba and they adhered to the policy of Rabi Yehoshua, who was opposed to the use of force.

However, following the revolt, the Roman government began a vicious campaign against the Jews, making every effort to annihilate them and to prohibit them from practicing their religion. When they murdered Rabi Akiva, Rabi Shimon turned bitterly against them.

Two years following Rabi Akiva’s death (126 C.E.), the Sages of Israel gathered in the garden of Yavneh to discuss the decrees of the Romans. Among the sages were Rabi Yehuda ben Ilai, Rabi Yosi and Rabi Shimon bar Yochai. Seated within the group was Yehuda ben Geirim.

Rabi Yehuda opened the conference by lauding the greatness of the Roman empire. “Look how beautiful are the deeds of the Romans,” he said. “They build market places, bridges and bath houses.”

Rabi Yosi remained silent. But Rabi Shimon bar Yochai vehemently denounced this. “What they have built was for their own selfish purposes,” he exclaimed. “They created market places and bath houses for immodest socialization and the bridges so as to charge tolls.”

Rabi Shimon Condemned To death

Yehuda ben Geirim repeated this conversation to some important officials and it soon reached the ears of the Roman government. A decree was immediately issued honoring Rabi Yehuda for his kind words on behalf of the government. Rabi Yosi, who remained silent, was sent into exile and Rabi Shimon, who dared to talk against the government, was condemned to death.

Rabi Shimon and his son hid in the beis medrash. Every day his wife brought food to his hiding place. When the government began to seek him out, Rabi Shimon decided not to jeopardize his wife, who would be tortured into revealing his hiding place. So, he and his son escaped out of town and hid in a cave.

A miracle occurred in the cave. A stream of water bubbled forth and a carob tree began to grow. The fruit of the tree sustained them while they learned Torah together. During the day, they removed their clothes and sat in the sand up to their necks. When it came time to daven, they put on their clothes and afterwards removed them. In this way they managed to preserve their clothes.

For 12 years they remained in the cave until one day, Eliyahu HaNavi came to the entrance of the cave and exclaimed, “Know you that the Roman king has died and all of his decrees have become void.”

They went out of the cave and saw people ploughing and tilling their lands. “Look,” they exclaimed, “these fools leave aside the true world and occupy themselves with the foolishness of this world.” They cast an evil spell upon them and the men died.

They Return To The Cave

A voice rang out from heaven. “Return to your cave. I did not allow you to leave to destroy My world.”

They returned to the cave and remained there for another 12 months. At the end of that time they prayed to G-d. “The punishment for evil-doers in Gehinom is 12 months; why must we suffer more?” Then G-d commanded them to leave the cave.

It was erev Shabbos, and as they were coming home, they saw a man running with two myrtle branches.

“Why do you carry two branches?” they asked.

“In honor of Shabbos,” was the answer.

“Wouldn’t one branch have been sufficient?”

One branch represents the commandment of Zachor, Remember Shabbos, and the other branch represents the commandment, Shamor, Observe the commandment,” he answered.

“See how our people love the mitzvos of the Torah!” said Rabi Shimon to his son. The two were then filled with contentment.

Rabi Pinchus ben Ya’ir, son-in-law of Rabi Shimon, heard of their arrival and rushed to greet them. He bathed them and administered to them. Seeing the sores on Rabi Shimon’s skin, tears streamed from his eyes.

“Woe is to me that I see you in such a state,” he cried out.

“On the contrary,” answered Rabi Shimon, “happy are you that you see me thus, for if I were not in such a state you would not have found me so learned.”

Originally, when Rabi Shimon raised a question, Rabi Pinchus would give him 13 answers, whereas now when Rabi Pinchus raised a question, Rabi Shimon bar Yochai would give him 24 answers.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Dear Rachel,

As parents to a handful of boys, I’d say we have our hands full. Seriously, I realize that boys will be boys and I know we should be grateful that they’re not a bunch of sissies. But what we hadn’t counted on was our eldest – the supposedly mature one – endlessly picking fights with his younger brothers.

Rachel, I’m not talking about squabbles over something tangible; I mean unprovoked physical altercations, blows that hurt and lead to wailing and shrieks of pain by our younger children who honestly don’t ask for it.

This has been going on for quite some time now, and as nerve-wracking as the noise and mayhem have been, up until last week we just chalked it up to sibling rivalry, figuring that it had to do with the attention that was diverted from our oldest with each new addition to the family.

We’ve reasoned with Yonie (not his real name), tried charts with a reward system for good behavior, and even instituted special dates with mommy or daddy (where one child gets to enjoy the exclusive attention of one of his parents on an outing) on a rotating basis. Every time we think we’ve made progress, it’s back to square one a day or two later.

Like I said, until last week — when our son pounced on someone else’s child, a kid almost half his age. This was something new and something we weren’t going to tolerate.

That night we sat him down, determined to get to the bottom of what was driving our bechor –who, believe it or not, is otherwise a shy and soft-spoken soul – to act out in such bizarre fashion.

After endless prodding and seemingly getting nowhere, a question asked by his father led to the shocking revelation that our son was being hounded relentlessly by a school bully — on the school bus, on a daily basis, for almost two years now!! Further prompting brought to light that Yonie (of slight build) had a fear of his tormentor who was “much bigger than me.”

It began to dawn on us that our 12-year old son has been acting out his own frustration and “getting even” by pummeling his weaker younger brothers, and inadvertently teaching them all how to be bullies! My husband was also very concerned about Yonie’s lack of resilience in not standing up to the bully.

Hopefully, we will be able to reverse the damage that has been eating away at our boys. We’ve already been to the school to speak to the principal and will follow up to make sure that appropriate action is taken.

In the meanwhile, my message to parents is not to chalk up their child’s odd or out-of-character behavior to “a passing phase” or “sibling rivalry.” Get to the bottom of it — the sooner the better.

P.S. I don’t refer to a public school in Anytown, USA; our children attend a cheder in a baalbatish yeshivish community.

Still Shaken…

Dear Shaken,

Children in schools the world over are being affected by the scourge of bullying — so much so that there’s been a mound of research done to try and evaluate the extent, the causes and effects on both aggressor and victim, and the best course of action to take to protect our vulnerable children.

Bullying comes in the form of repeated physical, verbal or psychological assault, usually directed at victims who are unable to defend themselves. Now, this doesn’t mean that parents should suddenly consider their children’s quarrels among themselves or with their peers as bullying. A fight or argument, especially between equals in physical size and strength, doesn’t constitute bullying.

So what makes a child vulnerable and susceptible to being picked on this way? A whole host of things, in fact, such as a lack of verbal skills that impedes self-expression; the craving of attention; physical clumsiness; shyness; low self-esteem or even the lack of ability to build friendships.

If you’re wondering why your son never spoke to you or complained about the bullying, studies have shown that most victims don’t tell their parents or teachers for fear that they will not be believed and/or they feel that nothing will be done about it. Victims are also prone to fearing retaliation, as well as embarrassment, at being unable to stand up for themselves.

Your husband, by the way, may not be doing his son any favor by encouraging him to take on the bully. Without adult intervention, this can chas v’sholom end up causing Yonie physical harm.

In contrast to those parents who choose to look away when their children get involved in altercations with others outside their home, you did the right thing by taking your son to task about his unacceptable behavior. In addition, his low self-confidence will be boosted by your show of support and caring.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/chronicles-of-crises/chronicles-of-crises-in-our-communities-137/2012/05/10/

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