Wednesday, May 18, 2011
and National Redemption
the greatest rabbi of the Mishnah
and spiritual leader of the Jewish people, knew that the end of his life
was near. The great revolt of Bar Kochvah
of the Star", now called Bar Koziba, "the son of
deception" - had failed, resulting in the brutal deaths of more than
half a million Jews in the Land of Israel and persecution of the Jewish
People throughout the length and breadth of the Roman Empire.
It was not easy for the Emperor Hadrian of Rome to end 3 years of Jewish
independence achieved by Bar Kochva's forces in the Land of Israel:
destroying it cost the defeat and destruction of some of Rome's best
legions and most prominent commanders, and required emergency transfer
to the Land of Israel of Julius Saverius, the plenipotentiary general
who ruled over Britain, and Hadrianus Quintus Lollius Urbicus, former
Governor of Germania.
of Jews in Israel was desperate. Everything had been destroyed, abused,
The ruins of the Great Temple were the basis for the statues of the
Hellenistic pagan gods, and the decree of expulsion of Jews from Judea
It seemed that the end of the Jewish people had arrived, that the hope
of a better future for the Children of Israel was a ludicrous illusion.
who always knew how
to relate both
to the poor and
to the powerful, to the scholars and to the uneducated, had to bring
some light on the tragic cloak of dark despair. This octogenarian
and beloved spiritual leader of the Jewish People had to provide some
hope for a future life; a dawn after what seemed to be the final Jewish
sunset. Then he started with his final teachings, designed specifically
to rebuild the nearly broken spirit of our ancestors. One of these
messages shows a clear vision and deep faith in a better world.
The Talmud teaches:
"One day… four
teachers: Rabban Gamliel, Rabbi Eleazar, Rabbi Yehoshua and Rabbi Akiva...
came to Mount Scopus.
When they saw the ruins of the city, they tore their clothes. And they
came to Mount Moriah, where once stood the Temple. They saw a fox coming
out of the Holy of Holies [the holiest site of the Temple, visited only
once a year by the High Priest, on Yom Kippur]. The first three wise men
began to mourn, while Akiva laughed beyond measure. They said, 'How can
you laugh at such a sight?"
'And you ... why are you crying? "
'Don't you know what it is said (in the Torah): "An alien who enters
near the Sanctuary will be condemned to death"
... and now even foxes roam [the Shrine] and nothing happens! This is
the reason for our tears."
calmly answered: 'I laugh because it is said: "Zion shall be plowed as a
field plowing and Jerusalem will become dead hills.",
It is also said "Once again, Jerusalem will be filled with joy, will be
filled with boys and girls jumping and singing in the streets."
While the first prophecy was not fulfilled, we could also question the
other. Now that the first is completed... we can expect with joy the
They replied: 'You're right'. "
It took too
many centuries to rebuild our national life. Centuries that saw the
persecution and killing of our people by the Crusaders, the Inquisition,
the pogroms of Europe and the Arab world, and finally, the Shoah
- the Holocaust. However, that hope, the light of Rabbi Akiva's
teachings, persisted in the hearts of the People of Israel and allowed
us to reconstruct our history, creating a present and a strong future
for the Jewish People through the establishment of the State of Israel –
when we overcame our defenseless condition.
When we see
Jerusalem rebuilt, its glorious presence reflected in hundreds and
thousands of bonfires recalling Bar Kochba's spirit of struggle for
liberation that we celebrate on Lag B'Omer, we evoke the hopeful omens
of Rabbi Akiva, and it moves to be alive in an era in which Jerusalem is
"full of joy, of boys and girls jumping and singing in the streets."
What a great privilege it is to witness our National Reconstruction!
May the light of our Lag BaOmer bonfires that reflect
the light of the Jewish hope for national freedom
which Rabbi Akiva taught us to see, also
our glorious present of independence and freedom
of our even more promising future.
Lag Ba'Omer Sameach!
Chazak v' Ematz!
RABBI CARLOS A. TAPIERO
Director-General & Director of Education
Following the battle of Betar,
Bar Kochvah's last stronghold of resistance against the Romans,
and the place where he fell dead, there were a few small
skirmishes in the Judean Desert Caves, but the war was
essentially over and Judean independence was irretrievably lost.
The Romans plowed Jerusalem with a yoke of oxen. Jews were sold
into slavery and many were transported to Egypt. Judean
settlements were not rebuilt. Jerusalem was turned into a pagan
city called Aelia Capitolina and the Jews were forbidden to live
there. They were permitted to enter only on the 9th of Av to
mourn their losses in the revolt. Hadrian changed the country’s
name from Judea to Syria Palestina.