[See this article for the background of this issue – Ed.]
Question: How come Rabbi Akiva’s students all died from not having respect for each other if they were the students of the man who exemplified that?
Answer: That could well have been the very reason they DID die for that failing: since they had such an exemplary role model, a great deal more was expected of them and any small weakness was considered more serious.
Question: How is possible that they were all guilty of the same thing that they all died the same exact death?
Answer: I can’t say this for sure, but perhaps not all of them were guilty of actually lacking respect for each other, but because some of them were weak in this area and the others tolerated it, it was as though they themselves shared the problem. According to Rabbi Dessler, something similar can be seen with Achan for whose sin the entire nation is held responsible (see Joshua 7: 11).
Question: How long after they died , was Rabbi Akiva killed? When did Rabbi Akiva start teaching the 5 new students?
Answer: I’m afraid I don’t have enough information to provide a chronology of these events. I will, however, offer an interesting suggestion (with no proof whatsoever): perhaps the students didn’t all die in the same year but, rather, over a longer period of time – but always during sefira. This would not be unique as the 10 Martyrs died over many decades (perhaps as long as a century apart)...
Question: Why is Lag BaOmer a celebration just because no one died – its still sad to lose 24,000 students?
Answer: You’re not the first to ask this question. While I’ve never heard a particularly satisfying answer, I don’t doubt that one exists.
Question: Were the 24,000 students part of the Bar Kochva revolt?
Answer: Probably not as the revolt occurred in the last year of Rabbi Akiva’s life.
Rabbi Boruch Clinton