2000–01 Hakirah or Mehkar: The Religious Implications of an Historical Approach to Limmudei Kodesh

Berakhot 61b, Yerushalmi Sotah 5:5

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Berakhot 61b, Yerushalmi Sotah 5:5

Summary: The well-known story of Rabbi Akiva being put to death at the hands of the Roman authorities is cited in several parallel sources in both the Talmud Bavli and in the Talmud Yerushalmi. One phrase which is central to the story in the Bavli—Rabbi Akiva’s statement “Amarti matai yavo le-yadi va-akaymenu”—is missing from the Yerushalmi in Sotah and from many of the manuscript sources of both the Bavli and the Yerushalmi.68 The addition of this phrase subtly shifts martyrdom from a commendable response to a religious aspiration.

Points to raise: Which version of the story is more likely to be the original? When might the addition or deletion have occurred? Shmuel Safrai suggests that the sentence was a later addition and reflects the shift toward a more idealistic stance on martyrdom.

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