Cover

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Title page, Copyright

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Contents

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p. ix

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Author’s Note

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pp. xi-xii

I have always been intrigued by the figure of Rabbi Akiva and the stories told about his life and death, so it was only natural for me to consider writing a book about him. I recall that one of my college projects was to work on the development...

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Preface

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pp. xiii-xvii

I consider it a privilege to be writing a book about Akiva ben Yosef for The Jewish Publication Society, not only because of the significance of the subject, but because the first important work on Akiva in English was written some eighty years...

Abbreviations

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pp. xix-xx

Timeline

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pp. xxi-xxii

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1. Akiva’s Early Life

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pp. 1-10

Akiva ben Yosef may be the most well-known and beloved of the early Rabbinic Sages, the Tannaim,1 but his life is largely a mystery and will probably always remain so. As the Talmud scholar Louis Ginzberg famously wrote, “A full history

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2. Becoming a Sage

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pp. 11-32

The period of time following the defeat of the Great Revolt in 73 CE, the time when Akiva’s life changed drastically, was an age of uncertainty. The Jews of the Roman colony of Judea had experienced a tragedy of enormous proportions...

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3. The New Sage and Public Figure

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pp. 33-56

Once Akiva completed his studies and received his ordination from Rabbi Joshua, he embarked upon his career not only as a rabbi and a participant in academic discourse, but also as a public figure. The academy at Yavneh had now...

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4. The Mystical Interpreter of Torah

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pp. 57-78

The Torah, the Five Books of Moses, has stood at the center of Jewish life ever since the Judeans return from their Babylonian exile in the fifth century BCE. Under the supervision of Ezra the Scribe, the various written traditions...

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5. The Organizer of Torah

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pp. 79-94

Akiva functioned on many levels. He was a public figure involved with the workings of the semi-autonomous administration under Rabban Gamliel II, traveling overseas and within the Land of Israel, dealing with the needy...

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6. Akiva and the Song of Songs

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pp. 95-106

The theme of love—both loving God and loving humankind—plays a central role in Akiva’s teaching. It is for this reason that the biblical book Song of Songs had a particular place of importance in his thinking. No other book...

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7. Aspects of Akiva’s Theology

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pp. 107-138

The Sages of Israel did not write systematic theology, and Akiva was no exception. But that does not mean that they had no personal beliefs about God, humanity, and the world. As Max Kadushin, eminent scholar of Rabbinic thinking, showed...

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8. Akiva— Resistance,Imprisonmet, and Death

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pp. 139-176

Hadrian (Publius Aelius Hadrian, 76 CE–138 CE) is one of the most reviled figures in Jewish history. His name has been joined with Amalek, Nebuchadnezzar, Haman, Antiochus, and Titus as a despicable enemy of Jews and Judaism...

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Epilogue: The Man and His Legacy

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pp. 177-188

Akiva’s portrait of the ideal Sage is found in teachings ascribed to him in ancient sources: “An am ha-aretz [ignorant person] cannot be pious, the timid cannot learn, and the short- tempered cannot teach.”1 “The ignorant cannot be sin-fearing...

Notes

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pp. 189-214

Bibliography

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pp. 215-218

Index to Classical Sources

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pp. 219-228

General Index

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pp. 229-244