Akiva Nichamtanu

נחמה ותקווה בתקופות קשות
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Written by:
Rick Schindelheim
Access editable doc with student handouts:

ברכה ראשונה

(5 minutes)

  1. Something that’s been weighing on me these days / something or someone I’ve been worrying about. (The idea is that you’re not carrying them totally alone - we can share our burdens together with this group)
  2. Something in recent days that’s given you hope or room for optimism

לימוד ועבודה פנימית

(20 minutes)

מסכת מכות (פרק ג) דף כד, ב

On another occasion [Rabban Gamliel, Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya, Rabbi Yehoshua, and Rabbi Akiva] were ascending to Jerusalem after the destruction of the Temple. When they arrived at Mount Scopus and saw the site of the Temple, they rent their garments in mourning, in keeping with halakhic practice. When they arrived at the Temple Mount, they saw a fox that emerged from the site of the Holy of Holies. They began weeping, and Rabbi Akiva was laughing. They said to him: For what reason are you laughing? Rabbi Akiva said to them: For what reason are you weeping? They said to him: This is the place concerning which it is written: “And the non-priest who approaches shall die” (Numbers 1:51), and now foxes walk in it; and shall we not weep? Rabbi Akiva said to them: That is why I am laughing, as it is written, when God revealed the future to the prophet Isaiah: “And I will take to Me faithful witnesses to attest: Uriah the priest, and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah” (Isaiah 8:2). Now what is the connection between Uriah and Zechariah? He clarifies the difficulty: Uriah prophesied during the First Temple period, and Zechariah prophesied during the Second Temple period, as he was among those who returned to Zion from Babylonia. Rather, the verse established that fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah is dependent on fulfillment of the prophecy of Uriah. In the prophecy of Uriah it is written: “Therefore, for your sake Zion shall be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become rubble, and the Temple Mount as the high places of a forest” (Micah 3:12), where foxes are found. There is a rabbinic tradition that this was prophesied by Uriah. In the prophecy of Zechariah it is written: “There shall yet be elderly men and elderly women sitting in the streets of Jerusalem” (Zechariah 8:4). Until the prophecy of Uriah with regard to the destruction of the city was fulfilled I was afraid that the prophecy of Zechariah would not be fulfilled, as the two prophecies are linked. Now that the prophecy of Uriah was fulfilled, it is evident that the prophecy of Zechariah remains valid. The Gemara adds: The Sages said to him, employing this formulation: Akiva, you have comforted us; Akiva, you have comforted us.

זכריה בן יברכיהו וכי מה ענין אוריה אצל זכריה? אוריה במקדש ראשון וזכריה במקדש שני! 

אלא תלה הכתוב נבואתו של זכריה בנבואתו של אוריה באוריה כתיב (מיכה ג) לכן בגללכם ציון שדה תחרש [וגו'] בזכריה כתיב (זכריה ח) עוד ישבו זקנים וזקנות ברחובות ירושלם 

עד שלא נתקיימה נבואתו של אוריה הייתי מתיירא שלא תתקיים נבואתו של זכריה עכשיו שנתקיימה נבואתו של אוריה בידוע שנבואתו של זכריה מתקיימת 

בלשון הזה אמרו לו: עקיבא ניחמתנו עקיבא ניחמתנו

  1. General observations regarding the story? Symbolism? (Not vortlach)
  2. What emotions best describe the Rabbis at the beginning of this story?
  3. What thoughts, fears do you think they have for the future?
  4. What’s R. Akiva saying? What is not saying? What’s R. Akiva saying B’ETZEM?
  5. Is learning this story now (October, 2023) different from previous times you’ve learned it? How? What are the implications of the differences?

ברכה אחרונה

(20 minutes)

  • We don’t know what R. Akiva would say if he were here and we should not pretend to know. But when looking at the pain and destruction suffered by Am Yisrael these past weeks, what is something that gives you hope for a better future for Am Yisrael? Something you see amid the churban - like R. Akiva - that points towards brighter days to come? (this can be the same or different from your Bracha Rishonah)
  • Turn your Tikvah to a Tefilah (in addition to hoping that it will happen, turn to Hashem and ask Him to make it happen)

יהי רצון מלפניך השם אלוקי ואלוקי אבותי…

Notes to the teacher

  • When discussing the Gemara, it is important to avoid sharing of nice divrei Torah that we’ve heard  
  • Question #4: Important to observe that R. Akiva is not saying that the suffering was not so bad or that it happened for a good reason. He is finding a spark of hope amid the ruins.
Download with student handouts:
Please help others by sharing how you used the resource, how you adapted it (link to your own version!) and what worked more or less well. You can also post questions that Lifnai Vlifnim staff or community members will try to respond to.

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