- Torah and Jewish Thought
- Rabbi and his Students
Were Rabbi Akiva’s 24,000 students married? If so, did they have children? Where did they live? What was their parnassa (livelihood)? Did the wives and chidren also pass away when the students did?
Based upon many conclusive rabbinic, historic and archaeological sources, I strongly agree with those that say that the 24,000 students of R. Akiva were murdered, as R. Akiva himself, by the Romans in the Bar Kochva rebellion which took place precisely at that time (about 130 C.E.) and R. Akiva and his yeshiva were the most active participants and supporters of the rebellion (see Y’rushalmi Ta’anit 4 5; Rambam, M’lachim 11, 3; ibid, Ta’aniot 5, 3; Igeret Rav Shrira Gaon, edited from ancient manuscripts by R. Dr. B.M. Lewin, and much more). All Jewish men are obligated by halacha to marry and have children. Y’vamot 62b says they originally lived between G’vat (in the Galilee) and Antipras/Antipatrus which is near Petach Tikva and Bnei Brak, in the northern half of the country, although archaeologists found many Bar Kochva caves in the southern Israel as well, e.g. the Judean desert, Bethlehem, Gush Etzion area. We also know that their last stand was at Beitar, a little south of Jerusalem. We don’t know what they did for a living but when they weren’t learning Torah and fighting the Romans, probably most of them were farmers, as were most Jews in Eretz Yisrael, of that time. This account also explains how all of the casualties mentioned in the Talmud were men and not women or children (who are davka usually more susceptible to plagues), although in the fall of Beitar, where 10’s of thousands were killed, this probably included women and children as well, although Gittin 57b refers just to the fighting men who were killed there.