Online Friday Noon Study Group

January 3, 2020 @ 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

July 10, 2020 12-1

17 participants were on hand for last Friday’s discussion of Chapters 3 and 4 Barry Holtz’s Rabbi Akiva.  Among other things, we

  • wrestled with the question of what kind of husband Akiva was.  Is there any justification for his abandoning his wife in order to study Torah–for 24 years?!?  While some of us viewed this a tremendous flaw for any role model to have, others viewed Akiva’s absence from his wife as being a “necessary fiction,”  intended to elevate his status as a  scholar and to elevate Rachel’s status as a supportive spouse.

  • discussed whether Rachel was an exemplary (her tomb in Tiberias is a shrine for pilgrims) or cautionary role model.  Was she valorized as an ideal wife who encouraged her husband’s study or was she victimized by a patriarchy that basically built the reputation of men on the backs of their wives.  Is there an alternative subtext that suggests that women might have seen her as a clever woman who got what she desired (freedom for the homes of her father and husband).

  •   took a look at Akiva’s pedigree as a sage:  he studied with the most esteemed of the sages, but his genealogy and poverty kept him from being promoted to the head of the academy at Yavneh.

  • considered some of Akiva’s early learning experiences (i.e. discovering that the subtleties of Jewish law may not always conform to a person’s understanding of “the right thing”; discovering the need to learn noty only from texts, but also from observing the behavior of sages).

  • began discussion of the “changing tide of intellectual and moral authority that was taking place in the rabbinic world.”

At our Zoom session on July 10, we’ll complete our discussion of  Chapters 4 (focusing on Akiva’s tact, modesty, and kavannah) and then move on to Chapter 5,”Among the Rabbis, ” a continuation of our discussion of rabbinic authority, especially with regard to the “Oven of Akhnai” (pp. 99-129).  If time permits, we may begin talking about Chapter 5 in Holtz, which recounts what is probably the most famous of the legends connected with Rabbi Akiva.

Our informal discussion group will be conducted online every Friday from 12-1.   All are welcome to join us, regardless of their level of expertise or attendance at previous noon study group discussions. If you have questions, or would like the Zoom link, please contact Jay Jacoby at

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