Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Rabbi Akiva is famous for many stories and attributes, including: the story of the water and the rock, his homecoming parade and proclamation of gratitude for his wife Rachel, the fox at the end of Maseches Makkos, his brutal murder at the hands of the Romans, and a vacation gone awry (Brachos 60b) in every possible way. He taught and then buried 24,000 talmidim. And yet, he persevered. He started anew and it is because of Rabbi Akiva and his five talmidim that the oral tradition remains unbroken.

What was his secret?


In each of the episodes above, Rabbi Akiva is famous for zooming out and seeing the big picture:

“It’s true that I am old and uneducated, but with consistency, anything is possible!”

“Sure, it was I who invested blood sweat and tears in my success, but where would I be without her encouragement?” “It’s very distressing to see the degradation of our Holy Temple in ruins and yet…the Navi said this would happen…let’s look forward to what’s next”. In each situation Rabbi Akiva wasn’t limited by first glances. His faith allowed him a broader and more optimistic perspective.

After the plague that wiped out his myriad students, Rabbi Akiva could have faced the harsh reality that they weren’t worthy. Between his own success rate and the ever-diminishing quality of his students, why not give up? Rabbi Akiva and Lag BaOmer teach us that no matter the stark reality of our iniquities, there is always a future worth investing in. No matter how bleak things look, there is a brighter future.

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Avi Ganz is the program Director of Ohr Torah Stone's Yeshivat Darkaynu. He lives with his wife and five children in Gush Etzion where he volunteers for MD"A, plays the blues on his Hohner, and reminisces fondly of his days playing tackle football with the IFL.