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Friday, June 25, 2010

Twenty-Four Thousand, 24,000

This Shabbat is my son #1's Bar Mitzvah parsha, the Torah Portion of the week which he read for his Bar Mitzvah.  I can still hear him practicing, especially the last line:
ט וַיִּהְיוּ, הַמֵּתִים בַּמַּגֵּפָה--אַרְבָּעָה וְעֶשְׂרִים, אָלֶף. {פ} 9 And those that died by the plague were twenty and four thousand. {P} (from Numbers Chapter 25 בְּמִדְבַּר)

That number repeats in Jewish History.  It's the number of Rabbi Akiva's students who perished in an epidemic, yes, 24,000.

Chazal, our sages have problems explaining why twenty-four thousand righteous students of the saintly Rabbi Akiva were killed/perished in that epidemic.

My friends and neighbors who have suffered through my sometimes sacrilegious commentaries know my theory.  I have very serious objections to the idealization, idolizing Rabbi Akiva's relationship with his wife, Rachel.  They agreed to live separately so he could study Torah.  I'm sorry, please forgive me, but we all know that such a thing is wrong.  It goes against Jewish Law. 

There are religions which celebrate and require celibacy from its religious leaders, but Judaism is not one of them.  The opposite.  We are obligated to marry and reproduce.

Rabbi Akiva and his wife, Rachel, were bad role models for his students. 

Going back to Parshat Balak, Zimri who should have been a positive pro-Torah role model for the Jewish People sinned with a Midianite woman.  They were both executed by Pinchas.  Pinchas's action ended the plague which had already killed twenty-four thousand.

Yes, I know that some of you are seething with shock and anger that I dare compare Rabbi Akiva with Zimri, but those numbers are the same, and there must be a reason.  Rabbi Akiva and Rachel certainly had good intentions, but like Nadav and and Avihu's deadly "strange/foreign fire," that doesn't make it right.

Shabbat Shalom u'Mevorach
Have a Peaceful and Blessed Sabbath

11 comments:

Bryan said...

I thought it was implied that Rabbi Akiva's students were killed by the Romans when Akiva allied with Bar Kokhba in his rebellion against Rome.

I seriously could be making that up entirely, but I thought I remember hearing something to that effect.

Anonymous said...

Bryan, Rav Hai Ga'on said the students were killed fighting the Romans in the Bar Kochva rebellion.

yaak said...

Your Devar Torah may seem sacreligious, but these ideas are not totally far-fetched.

See here for how R' Akiva is a Tikkun for Zimri.

Regarding your idea that R' Akiva was wrong, I can't say I agree to that, but you may be interested in the fact that my father has a novel peshat in לא נהגו כבוד זה בזה(the reason given why the 24,000 students died) - meaning his students didn't treat their wives with respect and left them as they saw R' Akiva leaving his wife. They didn't realize that R' Akiva got permission to do so.

Anonymous said...

Yaak, with all due respect to your father's Drush, nowhere does it state that "lo nahagoo kavod zeh lazeh" has anything to do with the disciples' treatment of their wives.

That would make it a wive's tale. :)

Batya, here's the story of Rabbi and Mrs. Akiva. They made a great couple.

As for precedent, let me remind you of Moshe's separation from his wife Tziporah.

Further, let me remind you of what happened to Moshe's sister, Miriam, when she blew a gasket over her brother and consider reviewing your thoughts in your commentary above.

And for all practicality, how many couples like R. Akiva and Rachel have you ever met or heard of? None for me.

yaak said...

It's definitely not Pashut Peshat, but here are some reasons to say so:
1) the gemara says "12,000 Zugot (pairs)" instead of 24,000 men
2) the gemara that immediately follows talks about how bad it is not to have a wife

Anonymous said...

Does that mean that the wives died with their husbands?

No. Therefore the answer is elsewhere.

David Tzohar said...

Beth- You have to realize that The story of R' Akiva and Rachel is special, the exception that proves the rule. R'Akiva was an uneducated am haaretz when he met Rachel, but there was a talmid chacham inside striving to get out. This is what
Rachel saw in him.
As someone who at the age of 40 decided to return to the Yeshiva as a full time student, there was no way to do this at the start without practically abandoning my family, but I couldn't have lived with myself if I hadn't done it. That this put a strain on my relationship with my wife is a gross understatement. As you know it all worked out in the end.
As a very wise man (Clint Eastwood) said"Sometimes a man's just gotta do what he's gotta do"

Anonymous said...

Whoa! Cleanup in aisle 5!

Batya said...

Bryan, shy, yaak, it's a vague one, the real reason. Since there's no coincidence the same number must be significant.
yaak, thanks for telling me what your father says.

David, go to what yaak wrote and answer (to yourself) whether you'd want your kids to go through what you did.

shy, shouldn't I be cleaning the floor? but a woman must do what a woman must do...

Anonymous said...

I don't understand, Batya.

Who said anything about cleaning floors? And who said only women do it?

Chauvinist!

;)

Batya said...

Friday's a busy day for me, Shy. Like it or not, the floor must be washed, among other chores, I'm I'm the one.
Shavua tov