The Fox and Fish, Rabbi Akiva; Monday Morning Parable

There was a rabbi, his name was Akiva, and he is one of the great rabbis in Jewish history.  During Akiva’s lifetime, the Romans made a law against studying Torah.  Akiva continued to study and teach Torah nevertheless.

His students said to him, “Why do you continue to study and teach Torah so publicly,  when you know you could be executed  for this?”

Akiva said, “There was a fox who sat looking into a stream watching fish swim rapidly back and forth and the fox said to the fish, why do you swim like that?”

The fish said, “We’re trying to escape the nets of the fisherman so we swim back and forth.”

The Fox said, “Why don’t you come out on the shore by me, then you won’t have to worry about the fisherman.”

The fish said, “Living in the stream with the fisherman is difficult indeed, but imagine how  much more difficult it would be if we went to the place for which we had not been  created?”

Akiva was arrested and tortured for continuing to teach and study Torah after the Romans had forbidden it.  On the day of his execution, the Romans would dip him in and out of the fire.  Each time they took him out of the fire Akiva would shout out the Shema (Deut 6:4-5), “Hear Oh Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord alone.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength!”

When the Roman officer said, “Rabbi why do you shout the Shema (Deut 6:4-5)?  Are you belittling us  or making fun of our torture?”

Akiva said, “no, but all my life I wondered how it was that I could love the Lord my God  with all my soul, now that I’m about to give it to him, how could I do any less?”

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