The tisch: Souls departing

Just as a flickering candle is enveloped by the flame of a torch, so, too, Akiva’s soul was overcome by Divine light.

By LEVI COOPER
December 28, 2017 18:36
4 minute read.
THE TOMB of Rabbi Akiva in Tiberias.

THE TOMB of Rabbi Akiva in Tiberias.. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The Talmud recounts the final moments of Rabbi Akiva’s life. The great sage had been incarcerated by the Roman authorities on the charge of breaking the law by teaching Torah publicly. After sitting in jail, he was taken out to be executed. The Romans decided to first torment him and they began to flay his flesh with iron combs.

As the Romans tortured the sage, it was time to recite the Shema, and Akiva was meditating on the unity of the Almighty. His students could not believe what they were witnessing: Even as their teacher was being brutalized, he was able to fulfill the obligation to recite the Shema with proper intent. They asked their teacher how he could focus on God even in these dire circumstances.

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