Makkot 17 - 24
- How much of forbidden food must be eaten to deserve lashes
- When does one get lashes for eating bikkurim or sacrificial flesh
- Can one bring second tithe to Yerushalayim after destruction of the Beit Hamikdash
- Lashes for forbidden shaving or mutilation
- When it is possible to receive one set of lashes for many violations and many sets for one action
- Lashes for wearing shatnez or cultivating kelayim
- How many lashes for each sin
- Medical evaluation of how many lashes sinner can endure
- How lashes are administered
- Do the lashes absolve sinner of liability for karet
- The reward for resisting temptation to sin
- When Heaven expressed consent for human decisions
- From the 613 mitzvot of Moshe to the one of Chabakuk
- Rabbi Akiva laughs when his colleagues weep
Laughter and Tears
- Makkot 24b
"Rabbi Akiva, why are you laughing?"
This is what his fellow Sages asked him with tears in their eyes upon seeing a fox come out of the site where once had stood the Holy of Holies in the now-destroyed Beit Hamikdash.
"Why are you weeping?" responded Rabbi Akiva.
"We see a place so sacred that the Torah warned that any outsider who entered would die is now desecrated by a fox parading there," they explained, "so how can we not cry?"
"For that very reason," explained Rabbi Akiva, "I laugh with joy. The prophecy of Uriah regarding the destruction and exile concludes with Har Habayit – Temple Mount – turning into a jungle. Until that came true I dared not yet look forward to the fulfillment of the prophecy of Zecharia regarding redemption. Now that I see that fox I realize the first prophecy has been fulfilled and I can begin to look forward to the fulfillment of the second."
Why, asks Chasam Sofer, did the other Sages not have the same perspective?
Rabbi Akiva, he explains, had a particular perspective of the fox. We see this in his dialogue with a Jew who tried to dissuade him from teaching Torah because such defiance of the Roman ban on learning Torah could endanger the Jews. Rabbi Akiva told him the parable of the fox who passed by a river and saw fish frantically swimming to escape the hooks and nets of fishermen. When he suggested that they come up on dry land to escape this danger, they replied:
"You, fox, are reputed to be the cleverest of animals but you speak like a fool. If we are in danger while we are in the water which is our natural habitat, what chance do we have of survival if we leave the water!"
Rabbi Akiva went on to compare Torah for Jews to water for fish with the conclusion that abandoning Torah would be a greater danger to survival (Mesechta Berachot 61b).
Rabbi Akiva's colleagues were also aware of the prophecy regarding the Temple Mount but they envisioned a jungle with lions and tigers, not a puny animal like a fox.
They therefore wept at seeing such a desecration of holiness. Rabbi Akiva, however, understood that the fox represented all the voices that would echo abandonment of Torah and they represented a greater threat to Jewish survival than all predatory animals. The appearance of the fox meant that the jungle prophecy had been fulfilled and he could laugh while the others cried.
"Akiva," was their response, "you have indeed comforted us."
What the Sages Say
"613 mitzvot were commanded to Moshe – 365 prohibitions corresponding to the number of days in the solar year (each day one is warned to avoid sin – Rashi) and 248 positive commands corresponding to the parts of the human body (each of them urging one to do a mitzvah – Rashi)."
- Rabbi Simlai -Makkot 23b