Talmudic Personalities: Get to Know the Rabbis
Rabbi Tali Adler
When we say "the rabbis" of the Talmud, who are we talking about? What stories do we tell about them and what can we learn from them? How does a religious leader's personality drive or hinder their impact in the world?
Get to know four of the most important of our early rabbis (called "Tannaim") and how they, according to our legends, rebuilt Judaism after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai, who escaped Jerusalem and made a deal with Vespasian to continue Jewish learning; Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrkanus, whose prolific memory and stubborn personality led to his eventual excommunication; R. Akiva, an innovator of unique and stunning insights, martyred by the Romans; and R. Elazar ben Arakh, the lone genius.
What were the advantages and disadvantages of their approaches? How did their personality affect their project and their relationship with their colleagues? What kind of rabbi would we want to be?