Monday, October 4, 2010

Was RACHEL the name of Rabbi Akivah's Wife ?


While staying in Tiberias about three weeks ago, I went to visit some famous Jewish graves. Not necessarily in order to pray so much at a grave of a Zaddik so that he may influence G - d or whatever some frum Jews consider as the purpose for praying at a Zaddik's grave. I am not too much into the "Zaddik - Righteous" issue and according to my opinion, one doesn't necessarily need to get to a grave in order to pray. However, I went to the Kever of the Rambam (Maimonides), of Rabbi Me'ir Ba'al HaNess and to the grave of Rachel. Not the Rachel from Bethlehem but Rabbi Akivah's wife buried in Tiberias !

Especially many Haredim I have spoken to refuse to believe that the present grave in Tiberias is really the grave of Rachel. There are plenty of controversies: 
Above the old Jewish cemetery we find an old Muslim cemetery and this is why nothing is certain. Despite that the Ishmaelim admitted that the daughter of Kalba Savua is buried there. Others claim that Rachel would be buried aside her husband Akivah and this is the reason why the present location of the grave must be wrong.
Rabbi Akivah is also buried in Tiberias but at a totally different spot.

Regarding all kinds of disputes, I am going through a few sources these day although it is impossible to find out the truth in our days. Furthermore, I made some photos and I am going to publish them as well.

The Babylonian Talmud (e.g. Masechet Nedarim 50a) always refers to Rachel as "The Daughter of Kalba Savua" and nowhere we find the name RACHEL mentioned. When it comes to Rabbi Akivah and his wife, no female name is given and we only find the name RACHEL in much later Midrashic sources.

Not only that there is a doubt whether the present location of the grave may be false, but there is another doubt whether Rabbi Akivah's wife was named RACHEL.

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