(By Michael Brown) In the year 123 A.D., the Roman government launched a severe crackdown against the Jews, culminating in 134 A.D., when all Jewish practices were forbidden, including circumcision, Torah study, and Sabbath observance. How did the rabbis respond? One of the noted leaders of that day, Rabbi Hananiah ben Teradyon, conducted public Torah classes, paying for it with his life. But this was no emotional, spur of the moment decision. There was a rationale behind his actions, traceable to Rabbi Akiva, the greatest rabbinic sage of that era, also martyred for his allegiance to Torah.
The Talmud relates: Once the wicked Roman government issued a decree forbidding the Jews to study and practice the Torah. Pappus ben Judah came by and, upon finding Rabbi Akiva publicly holding sessions in which he occupied himself with Torah, Pappus asked him: “Akiva, are you not afraid of the government?” CONTINUE