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Geneology of Rabbi Akiba

Rabbi David SperlingIyyar 16, 5775
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Question
Shalom, I have heard that Rabbi Akiba’s was a descendant of Amalek Sanhedrin 96b I have read that his father’s name was Joseph. Is it true that he was an Amalekite?
Answer
Shalom, Thank you for your question. Rabbi Akiva, one of the greatest Rabbis of the Gemara, certainly came from humble beginnings. According to the Talmud he was descended from converts (or at least on his father's side they were converts), who traced their linage back to Sisera mentioned in the Tanach (who was killed by Yael with a tent peg – see Judges chapters 4-5). The gemera you quoted, Sanhedrin 96b, states that "Descendants of Sisera taught Torah in Yerushalayim" - which may well refer to Rabbi Akiva, (and then that "Descendants of Haman taught Torah in Bnei Berak" – Haman being from Amalek). Sisera is not identified as being from the Amalek people, but rather the commander of the Canaanite army. Rabbi Akiva's father was in fact named Yosef, as you wrote. Blessings.
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