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12/16/2022 02:20:41 PM


As I wrote last week, my new grandson's name is Akiva Simcha. After whom was he named?

Following a tradition of not revealing the name until the actual berit, the parents of the baby had kept the name a secret. When we heard the name, we felt it was a very nice name, and assumed he was named after someone on "the other side." But the "other side" also did not have anyone by that name, so they assumed it was named after someone on our side.

At the seudah following the berit, the father Elchanan (married to my granddaughter Rosy) of the baby explained:

He had an uncle, an outstanding Talmud scholar, who had passed away this past year. The uncle's name was Moshe.

However, they couldn't name the baby Moshe, since that is the name of my "mechutan," who is Rosy's other grandfather.

So---- there is a famous midrash brought down in the Talmud that when Moshe Rabbeinu was on Mount Sinai to receive the Torah, HaShem put him in a time machine, and he found himself in the classroom of Rabbi Akiva.  Moshe was sitting in a back row, and couldn't understand a word that Rabbi Akiva was saying, which of course was upsetting.

One of the students asked the teacher (i.e. R. Akiva): what is the source of what you are saying? R. Akiva answered: it is a halacha of Moshe from Sinai. And this made Moshe very happy.

My understanding of that midrash is that Moshe saw that R. Akiva was taking the laws that Moshe had taught many hundred of years previously, and was applying them to his time.

And our prayer is that our little Akiva should also, as he grows and matures, study and interpret the laws of Torat Moshe.

And, what about the 2nd name: Simcha, which means "happiness." We know that R. Akiva lived in a difficult time, during the Roman persecutions: teaching Torah was a capital offense; and in the end, he was tortured to death by the Roman rulers of Erets Yisrael. And so we pray that little Akiva live a long life of joy and happiness.

And may we all be inspired by the lights of Hanukkah.

Shabbat shalom and Hanukkah Sameah, Rabbi Menahem White

Sun, April 2 2023 11 Nisan 5783