16 Iyyar 5775Day 31 of the Omer
Many people wonder why, after 2000 years, we are still required to mourn the deaths of Rabbi Akiva's students who died from a 'plague' during Sefirat Ha'omer.
The Gemora in the tractate of Yevamos 62b, tells us that "Rabbi Akiva had 12,000 pairs of students...and all of them died in one period of time because they did not conduct themselves with respect towards one another...they all died between Pesach and Shavuos...and they all died a terrible death. What was it? R' Nachman said "As'kerah" (a death from suffocating, from a croup-like illness). "
The Aruch HaShulchan says that "these days between Pesach and Shavu'os are established by all of Israel as days of judgement and mourning, because in this short period of time, the students of Rabbi Akiva died. Furthermore, in the past, we have seen that the main fulfillment of decrees against us in Germany and France took place during this time period, and ..." therefore, the Aruch HaShulchan says, we have the custom to maintain certain practices associated with mourning. (Source)You see, we are still suffering from this 'ailment' today. It's not just the Ethiopian Jews who are hated. 'Russians' are hated. Hareidim are hated. 'Settlers' are hated. Converts are hated. It seems there is hatred for everyone, but our enemies whom we are supposed to hate.
As long as this situation exists, there is still reason to mourn. May the day soon arrive when the Erev Rav and Amalek among us are purged and their hatred along with them!