Project Genesis

Bar Kochba and Rabbi Akiva

During the Bar-Kochba uprising Rabbi Akiva supported its leader. But once Bar-Kohba refused to obey Rabi Akiva when he forbade being friendly with Samaritans. As a result Rabi Akiva left Bar-Kohba and his followers. My definition of this situation is betrayal.
Maybe I don’t understand something… Please advice.

I don’t know what your historical source is for the account you presented. It is not the traditional account brought in Jewish sources which were recorded in that era.According to Torah sources, Roman supporters tricked Bar Kochva into believing that the great sage, Rabbi Elazar HaModii, was plotting against him. When Bar Kochva in turn killed Rabbi Elazar HaModii, the tide of the war reversed completely resulting in a catastrophic slaughter of Jewish people by the hands of the Romans. Although he possessed tremendous potential to accomplish great things, Bar Kochva was doomed by the negative choices he made. (See Talmud Yerushalmi, Taanis 21a & Midrash Rabbah Eicha 2:9.)

Your question reminds me of a humorous story told over in the name of Rabbi Chaim of Brisk. Rabbi Chaim was riding on a train car in Europe filled with Jews when a missionary entered the car and began preaching his proofs. The Jews quickly dispensed with his handful of standard scriptural interpretations when the missionary suddenly presented a new argument, which the Jews were at a loss to counter.

“How can you be so sure that Jesus was not your Messiah?” the missionary asked.

One of the passengers answered: “Jesus lived in an era full of great Torah sages. If they were there, saw all the facts with their own eyes and concluded he wasn’t the Messiah, what sense does it make for us, 2000 years later, to question their conclusion?”

“Ahhhh!” the missionary countered, “but what about Bar Kochva, whom Rabbi Akiva thought was the Messiah, but turned out to be mistaken? If your greatest sage, Rabbi Akiva, could err about Bar Kochva being the Messiah, couldn’t your other sages have made a mistake about Jesus?”

Silence. What counter could there be to such a reasonable suggestion?

Then Rabbi Chaim spoke up from the back of the train: “Who says Rabbi Akiva made a mistake?”

“What?” asked the missionary.

“Maybe Rabbi Akiva was right; maybe Bar Kochva was the Messiah,” Rabbi Chaim restated. “Then your question just goes away.”

“But Bar Kochva couldn’t have been the Messiah!” the missionary exclaimed.

“And just why not?” Rabbi Chaim asked.

“Because he was killed by the Romans!” the missionary concluded.

“Thank you very much,” finished Rabbi Chaim.

Be well,

Shlomo Shulman
Maimonides at Yale

1 Follow-up »

No published follow-up questions.

We respond to every follow-up question submitted, but only publish selected ones. In order to be considered for publication, questions must be on-topic, polite, and address ideas rather than personalities.


Powered by WordPress