Sunday, July 29, 2012

Notes on Rabbi Jacob J. Schacter's Live Streaming Introduction to the Kinnah about the Ten Martyrs, Focusing on Rabbi Akivah

Maseschet Menachot (HaKometz Rabbah) tells the story of Rabbi Akivah (in the sugyah of Stam. Seven letters have taggin.) Hashem is tying the taggin onto the letters.  Moshe asks why. Hashem says because one day there will be a Rabbi Akivah who will learn boatloads of halachot from each of these crowns.  Moshe says, “Show him to me.”
“Turn around.”
And there he is in the eight rows back in Rabbi Akivah’s yeshiva and he can’t follow the shiur.  His spirit is weakened.  They get to a point and ask Rabbi Akivah how he knows. “Halachah LeMoshe MiSinai.” And Moshe felt better – nityasheiv da’ato.

“You have someone like this and you’re giving the Torah through me?”
“Shtok – be quiet – this is what I want to do,”
“You showed me his Torah, show me his reward.”
“Turn around again.” And he saw them weighing his flesh – which was torn from him - in the meat market.
“This is Torah and this is its reward?”
“Shtok – be quiet – kach challah bemachshavah lefanai - this is what I want to do.”

Brachot (Samech alef amud bet)

It says both bechol nafshechah and bechol me’odechah. Rabbi Akivah says that bechol nafshechah  means even if your life is taken.

Popus ben Yehudah found Rabbi Akivah teaching big crowds Torah during a time when it was forbidden.
“Aren’t you afraid?
“The fox walking by the riverside asks the fish what they are swimming away from.  ‘Nets.’ 
‘So leave the water and live with me here like our fathers in the past.’
‘No, are you the one they call wise – because you sound foolish.  If we’re in danger here, how much more-so there.’
 So too if while studying Torah we need to be nervous, how much more so if we’re not.”

Word got out.  He was put in jail, as was Popus. Rabbi Akivah asks, “Who brought you here?” Popus: “Praised are you who was jailed while teaching Torah and whoa to me who ended up her for devarim beteilim – wasteful things.”

They take him out and it’s the time of saying Shemah.  They rip out his flesh with metal combs. His students ask – “Ad kaan? He says, “I always said that this means – even if He takes your soul. And I wondered when I can do this. Now, I won’t fulfil this pasuk? His soul went out with the word “echad.” A voice says he is praised, as his soul went out with “echad.” The angels ask - “This is Torah and its reward.” Hashem says his reward is in the world to come and a voice comes out and says he is praised…

Rav Solovechik opposed Yom HaShoah feeling it belongs to Tisha BeAv a day for all Jewish tragedy.

September 1, 1939 the Nazis invaded Poland and the Piazetsner Rav transfers to Warsaw. He writes up his Torah and hides it in a milk can and says if found bring it to my brother, Shapiro, in Tel Aviv.  It became Aish Kodesh. He says that it’s destructive to ask “Why?” Rather, faith is everything, questions are destructive.  He says that we suffer terribly every couple of hundred years.  However, he says, how can we wish to explain how G-d does this.  We don’t “get” anything, even how grass grows, why choose to understand this which G-d understands.  Why ask why about one time of suffering, now.  Why not be equally troubled about the suffering of the past.  Asking about now and thinking it hasn’t happened before is a mistake.  If you can live on knowing it happened before then live on now as well.  G-d should help us as we try to move on.

He has a footnote in which he adds that he made a mistake.  Later on he went back and said that he misspoke because he saw that now it was actually a fact that Jews had never suffered this way before.  He says that till the fall of 1942 there were such things before.  But he says that after that time it got worse than it ever was (as far as he knew) (added on the 13th of Kisleiv Taf Shin Gimel.)

He then cites the story of Rabbi Akivah and pauses on the conversation between students and teacher.  He asks if they could really have asked their teacher if it could go this far – why are they so shocked to see him doing the right thing?  And why does he answer personally and not say simply that this is the halachah because of the pasuk.

He said that it was personal for them as they saw their own Rebbe being tortured.  They were asking Moshe Rabbeinu’s question – how do you deserve this? They put the question in shorthand, really seeking to be strengthened, afraid to put the question too boldly. He understood it was a question of struggling with faith and that Hashem had answered the question with “Shtok,” which made them hesitant to ask.  He understood they were seeking not a halachik psak but an answer about faith.  So he told them a personal story, not just a dry law – a life answer from his soul to the soul of his students.  He spoke about real life, his own life, how he wanted to be able to fulfill this. As his guts were being torn out he sought to strengthen his students. 

Rav Klonymous says that Rabbi Akivah was speaking to his handful of students but today we are speaking to all of the Jewish People.  He said that it was the question of the moment.  And that faith was needed and moving ahead and getting through it was needed and trusting in G-d was needed.


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