Photo Credit: Jewish Press

When the Romans were taking Rabbi Akiva outside to execute him, it was time to say Shema. Indeed, “they were raking his flesh with iron combs, and he was accepting upon himself the yoke of Heaven” (Brachot 61b). Neither Rabbi Akiva’s students nor the very angels on high could understand this. “This is Torah and this its reward?!” the angels inquired of their Maker. Yet, Rabbi Akiva himself was seemingly unbothered. As he said on another occasion, Didn’t I tell you? Everything that G-d does, He does for the best.”

Most of us find ourselves squarely in the category of Rabbi Akiva’s students and the angels. Yet, Rabbi Akiva had such a remarkable and unshakable trust in G-d that he not only recited Shema but relished the opportunity even then.


Perhaps most remarkable of all is not that the great Rabbi Akiva could act in this superhuman manner but that he has so many students right now, fighting on our behalf in Gaza or sitting in mourning in Israel. The incredible faith and trust of our holy soldiers and their families is as mystifying as the faith of their master and model, Rabbi Akiva. We may candidly admit that we do not understand any better than the angels. Yet, we can be students of these contemporary exemplars of faith, trust, confidence, and courage.

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Yitzchak Sprung is the Rabbi of United Orthodox Synagogues of Houston (UOSH). Visit our facebook page or to learn about our amazing community. Find Rabbi Sprung’s podcast, the Parsha Pick-Me-Up, wherever podcasts are found.