Rabbi Akiva Laughed

Throughout the world, Jewish people have finished this week ,the daily study of the talmudic tract Makkot. This daily system called the Dafyomi,” or a “page (Daf) a day (Yomi),” refers to the system of Talmud study started in 1923 by Rabbi Meir Shapiro, Rabbi of  Lublin,and the representative of the Jewish community in the Polish senate.  Rabbi Shapiro’s goal was to unite Jews all over the world by having them study the same page of Talmud each day, and to enable the great achievement of completing the entire Talmud which, with his system of a page a day, within just over seven years (2,711 pages).In addition to enabling the simple laymen to enter into the fascinating world of homiletic insight and Jewish  religious law and civil jurisprudence , the daily study imparted great spiritual strength and fortitude.

As we approach the ,much discussed ,meeting between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Barak Obama, the closing words of the tractate we culminated this week was enlightening.

The tractate describes the following encounter:

“Again it happened that Rabban Gamliel, Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria, Rabbi Joshua and Rabbi Akiva went up to Jerusalem. When they reached Mt. Scopus, they tore their garments. When they reached the Temple Mount, they saw a fox emerging from the place of the Holy of Holies. The others started weeping; Rabbi Akiva laughed.

Said they to him: “Why are you laughing?”

Said he to them: “Why are you weeping?”

Said they to him: “A place [so holy] that it is said of it, ‘the stranger that approaches it shall die,'(Numbers 1:51) and now foxes traverse it, and we shouldn’t weep?”
Said he to them: “That is why I laugh. For it is written, ‘I shall have bear witness for Me faithful witnesses–Uriah the Priest and Zechariah the son of Yeberechiah.'(Isaiah 8:2) Now what is the connection between Uriah and Zechariah? Uriah was in the First Temple, and Zechariah was in the Second Temple! But the Torah makes Zachariah’s prophecy dependent upon Uriah’s prophecy. With Uriah, it is written: ‘Therefore, because of you, Zion shall be plowed as a field; ‘(Isaiah 8:2) With Zachariah it is written, ‘Old men and women shall yet sit in the streets of Jerusalem and children will play in the streets of Jerusalem.'(Zachariah 8:4)

“As long as Uriah’s prophecy had not been fulfilled, I feared that Zechariah’s prophecy may not be fulfilled either. But now that Uriah’s prophecy has been fulfilled, it is certain that Zechariah’s prophecy will be fulfilled.”

With these words they replied to him: “Akiva, you have consoled us! Akiva, you have consoled us!” ( Makkot 24:a-b)”

As the people of Israel continue on their Flotilla of Destiny surrounded by  “Hamas sharks” and “Iranian pirates” and “treacherous media waters” these are thoughts that offer inspiration and fortitude. As the flotilla docks in the port Of Washington DC which has not been as inviting and as friendly as it has been in the past , a sense of destiny is helpful.

The metaphors of the story described in the Talmudic story will say much more than I need to.

From our little safe harbor in the old city of Jerusalem we bid our Prime Minister our hopes and prayers that he remain committed to the democratically chosen majority that placed him in office , and to the eternal call of destiny that created the nation he now leads.

“But now that Uriah’s prophecy has been fulfilled, it is certain that Zechariah’s prophecy will be fulfilled.”

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