Rebbi Akiva’s Opinion on Gimmel Tammuz

Rebbi Akiva’s Opinion on Gimmel Tammuz

Everything in the life of the Rebbe’s Chassidim is governed by the Rebbe’s teachings.  But when something occurs for which we don’t have explicit instructions — such as Gimmel Tammuz — we must look in the Rebbe’s Torah for guidance.

Many Chassidim will say that the Rebbe in fact does give explicit instructions for Gimmel Tammuz, for example in 5751 the Rebbe writes that Gimmel Tammuz represents “the beginning of the Geuloh”.  Nonetheless, not every chosid today is prepared to accept that what the Rebbe said regarding the “beginning of the Geuloh” of the Rebbe Rayatz can so easily be applied to  Gimmel Tammuz, 5754.  Even so, this split — how Chassidim respond to the situation after Gimmel Tammuz 5754 — is itself addressed by the Rebbe, as we hope to show.

In Likkutei Sichos volume 19 is printed a famous sicha explaining an aggadeta at the end of Mesechta Makos.  The aggadeta describes two incidents involving Rebbi Akiva while he was travelling with three other sages.  What concerns us here is the second incident:

Rabban Gamliel, Rebbi Elazar ben Azaryah, Rebbi Yehoshua, and Rebbi Akiva were going up to Yerushalayim (after the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash).  When they reached the point where they could see the Temple Mount they all (including Rebbi Akiva) tore their garments as a sign of mourning.  As they proceeded and approached the site of the Beis Hamikdash, they saw a fox run out of the Holy of Holies.  The three sages began crying, and Rebbi Akiva laughed.

“Why are you laughing?!” they asked him.

He responded: “Why are you crying?”

They answered: “The place about which the verse states ‘a non-Kohen who approaches will die’ and now foxes are are going there and we shouldn’t cry?!”

Rebbi Akiva responded: that is why I am laughing.  The verse states (Yeshayahu 8:2) “two faithful witnesses will give testimony: Uriah haKohen and Zecharia [the prophet].”  The prophecy of one is dependent on the other.  Uriah prophesied (about the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash) that  “Zion will be plowed like a field”.  Zecharia prophesied (about the Geuloh) that “elderly men and women will yet sit in the streets of Yerushalayim.”  “Now that I see that Uriah’s prophecy was fulfilled, I’m certain that Zecharia’s will be fulfilled.”

They said to him: “Akiva, you have comforted us.  Akiva, you have comforted us.”  Thus ends the aggadeta.

The Rebbe asks a number of questions, which are answered at length in the Sicha, but for our purposes we need to understand how the Rebbe explains Rebbi Akiva’s laughter upon seeing something as drastic as a fox running out of the Holy of Holies.   The Rebbe explains Rebbe Akiva’s view as follows:

Rebbi Akiva was able to see the good, even in something that appears as not good at all.  Since the good will come out in the end, his opinion was that the future good takes precedence over anything “not good” in the present.  Thus, if one knows (according to Torah, not merely a “hergesh”) that the destruction that you see will lead to Geuloh — this demands, according to Rebbi Akiva, that one relate to the future Geuloh and not the present destruction.  In the Rebbe’s words: Rebbi Akiva only saw the future good.

And more than that: in the verse the destruction itself is likened to a “plowed field”, which is actually part of the growth process.  It is not a negative step which one must suffer in order to get to better things down the road; rather — the plowing itself is part and parcel of the sowing and reaping.

In other words, not only the future good must take precedence over the unpleasant present, but the present itself is part of the future good!  And this is why the other sages were comforted by his words: because he showed them how the future good was actually already present in the “here and now” (despite how unpleasant the “here and now” might appear).

Let us translate this as it might apply to Gimmel Tammuz in our times:

All of our four sages agree that on the face of it Gimmel Tammuz is not a happy event.  The Rebbe is not seen, the Rebbe is not heard, we don’t see the Rebbe by farbrengens or dollars or kos shel brocha.  At the same time, it is appreciated by all that we are proceeding towards Moshiach, and whatever is lacking now is only temporary.  The future is good, but the present is “not-so-pleasant”.  Why do those who follow the approach of the 3 sages cry?  Because of what is lacking in the present, even if they know that the future will be good.  Along comes Rebbi Akiva and not only does he not cry — he laughs!  He makes a leibedik farbrengen on Gimmel Tammuz, without even mentioning the word “hillula“!

What is Rebbi Akiva’s “secret”?  He learned the sources and he understands — for example, that “Moshiach is revealed and concealed” — and thus he recognizes and even sees the future good that will come from this — and that is all he sees!  Not only that, but he understands that “this one is dependent on the other” — that the revelations of the true and complete Geuloh, the revelation of Hashem’s essence, atzmus umahus, are in fact dependent on us doing the work under our own power without relying on the Rebbe’s visible presence to inspire us.  This is the “plowing” that brings to the “sowing” and the “harvesting” — the future good is already here with us, hidden within the present that is “not-so-pleasant”.  From Rebbi Akiva we learn that this knowledge is enough to transform crying to laughter, even while the future good is still hidden.

One more point:

The Rebbe in the sicha asks: why do we need be told the names of all three sages?  After all, we don’t find in this aggadeta any difference of opinion among them, nor do we learn any chiddush from them.  If it would tell us “Rebbi Akiva and three of the sages” seemingly that would be enough.  The Rebbe answers that we to know their their identities because from this we learn that they were all men of distinguished lineage: Rabban Gamliel was the Nosi Hador, a scion of the tribe of Yehuda; Rebbi Elazar ben Azarya (himself a future Nosi) was a Kohen, the tenth generation from Ezra HaKohen; Rebbi Yehoshua was a Levi, of those who sang and made music in the Beis Hamikdosh.  Due to their outstanding yichus and important positions they were overwhelmed when they saw how low things had fallen after the churban.

Rebbi Akiva, however, was the son of converts, and he himself had been an ignoramus until the age of 40 when he first began learning the basics of Torah.  Rebbi Akiva’s very existence was proof of the tremendous good that can come from “the other side”, from that which appears outwardly to be not good.  Thus, Rebbi Akiva was naturally able to see with great clarity the future good —  regardless of how it seems at present.  Rebbi Akiva possessed what the other sages in our aggadeta lacked: despite their superlative backgrounds and positions, they could not see the future good hidden in the not-so-pleasant present. That is, until Rebbi Akiva explained it to them.

If we translate that to our present situation, we see that the Rebbe is apprising us of what to expect: those with the most illustrious “gezhayichus, those who held the most visibly important positions in the Rebbe’s staff (and those learning in the mosdos they run), may find it a difficult challenge to get past the present situation which appears to be the opposite of good.  To the contrary, the baal teshuvahs and their families, the “newcomers” may find it easier to grasp the Rebbe Akiva perspective: to see that the concealment since Gimmel Tammuz is actually — as the Rebbe states in the sicha — the beginning of the Geuloh.

If there are those who, after 28 years, still haven’t adopted Rebbi Akiva’s perspective, we are forced to say that those of us who do see Gimmel Tammuz as the beginning of the Geuloh must shoulder a lion’s share of the blame:  how many years of wasted efforts spent arguing with each other?  If we, the Rebbi Akivas, will properly explain the concepts as they are found in nigleh and Chassidus, then we are assured by this aggadeta that the others (at least those who are willing to discuss the matter) will come around to see the hidden, inner good just as Rebbi Akiva sees them.  Not only that, but they themselves will tell us “Nichamtanu! Nichamtanu!” — you have consoled us after nearly 30 years of crying!

This alone will surely speed the Geuloh, and bring about the ultimate hisgalus of the Rebbe, Melech HaMoshiach!

View the sicha in Likkutei Sichos volume 19 (in Yiddish) here.