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Me or We? The Individual vs. the Collective in Halacha & Kabbalah

How to Like the People You Love: The Mistake of Rabbi Akiva’s Students

2 hr

Class Summary:

Rabbi Akiva taught his students to love. But they could still not learn to respect their colleagues. Why?

How does Jewish law and Jewish mysticism view the reality of the collective vs. the individual? An analysis by the Rogatchover Gaon on the view of Rabbi Akiva in various Talmudic laws reveals a pattern of thought: The collective is not only a sum of many individuals joined together; but there is a transcendent reality in which all of the individual details melt away in a single integrated oneness.

There are two charged terms in the Hebrew language: Love and respect. The first comes from a sense of oneness; the latter is born from a sense of distinctiveness. Can it be that the students of Rabbi Akiva knew how to love but not how to respect?

There are people you like but you don't love; there are people you love but you may not like. There are people that you love and you like, and there are people, well, that you don't love and you don't like either. You love your parents. You love your brothers. You love your sisters. But you don't necessarily like them… Sometimes you love your husband, but you have a hard time liking him. What is the difference between "liking" and "loving"? What is the difference between anti-Semites who hate Jews and Jews who dislike Jews? Why do we count both "day" and the "week" in the counting of the Omer? Why are there so many couples who “fall in love,” but after some time, they find themselves so far apart? What happened to the love? Most of us love our children. But do we respect them?

Please leave your comment below!

  • GEH

    Geoffrey E. Harris -3 years ago

    This is hard.

    There are also some children who can honor their parents but who do not love them.  To hold together as a family, not only are health and wealth needed, but respect, open communications in the form of dialogue, liking, and loving are need. Positity is needed.  Why is it so hard for people to be good to one another, to be kind and loving.  The human animal is too individualistic, too mean, greedy, and selfish.

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  • Z

    Zvi -5 years ago

    Dear Rebbe,

    I just finished listening to your shiur given April 20,2015 on the topic of the importance of the individual vs the collective. Again fascinating. And as always. Thank you. 
    May I please ask a few questions. If you have the time to answer I would greatly appreciate it. And if not Baruch HaShem. I am grateful for the ability just to ask. 
    1. By kabalas hatorah on har sinai. Klal Yisroel was like one man with one heart as categorized by rashi. Why was there no need for the individual in this setting? 
    2. True. The students of rabbi Akiva didn’t respect the individuality of each other. But is that a reason why 24,000 people should die? They did love each other. Shouldn’t that quality be enough to redeem them from death? 
    3. Are they called 12,000 pairs because they didn’t recognize each as an individual? 
    4. What can/should be the methods of interacting with a person whom for whatever reason appears to not be capable of respecting others individuality? Especially this person becomes insulted when even  trying to point out that this is occurring?
    Thank you again for your continued education and chizuk. For me as an individual as well as a part of klal Yisroel. 



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    • RY

      Rabbi YY -5 years ago

      In response to your questions:

      1. Torah is Divine. Hashem is one and oneness. So the preparation for Torah had to be oneness.
      2. On a spiritual level, and on an emotional level, we can understand: When there is no respect we "choke" each other, we do not give space for the other. We collide and destroy each other.
      3. Perhaps.
      4. You need to have proper boundaries so you do not get hurt; and you need to try to see things from his or her perspective and then slowly help them broaden their perspective.


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  • D

    danny -8 years ago

    אחרי השיעור הזה חזק ברוך אפשר גם להבין את השיעור שהרב הביא על כל המחלוקת של רבי יהודה ורבי שמעון שהוא רבי שמעון היה מתלמדי רבי עקיבא והוא כמו שפירש הרב שבכל השס היה מחפש את עומק מחשבתו של כל אחד וזה להביט בפרט במעלה הכי גבוהה

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  • RYJ

    Rabbi YY Jacobson -9 years ago

    נראה לומר בדרך אפשר, שעל פי זה מתורצת לשון הגמרא שי"ב אלף זוגים היו לו לרבי עקיבא. והקשינו בתחלת השיעור מדוע לא נאמר בבירור כ"ד אלף תלמידים? ואולי שבזה מרומז כל נקודת הענין שנתבארה בהשיעור. טעות תלמידי רבי עקיבא נבעה מכך שהיו באמת "זוגים", היינו שהרגישו אהבה נוראה ונפלאה אחד לשני, כמו "זוג", על דרך ומעין "פלג גופא" של זוג, שהוא קשר עצמי וכו'. ומצד זה גופא הנה הי' חסר בכבוד אחד להזולת. ואם שגיתי כו'.

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  • C

    cirel -9 years ago

    Didn’t listen to the whole thing yet. But perhaps the fact that nusach tefilo is dRabonon and Birchas Hamozoin is D’oiraiso, has something to do with the differences of opinion ? bet R. Akivo and R. Yoisy Haglili ?(kindly take into account that I know nothing about learning Gemoro)

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Rabbi YY Jacobson

  • April 20, 2015
  • |
  • 1 Iyyar 5775
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Dedicated by David Pisarevsky in the loving memory of Yaakov, 5, Sarah, 6, Moshe, 8,Yehoshua, 10, Rivka, 11, Dovid, 12 and Eliana, 16 – Sassoon, and for the complete and speedy recovery of their mother Gilah bas Frances and her daughter Tziporah bas Gilah

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