Why are We Still Mourning the Death of Rabbi Akiva's Students?

The death of the 12000 students of Rabbi Akiva was a devastating event in Jewish History, no doubt. However, there were many other devastating events, that we may recognize privately, but do not have any formal laws of mourning for them. What makes this devastation greater than others? What is the message that we internalize of their death, and why do we specifically mourn Rabbi Akiva's students?

Rabbi Akiva is a central figure in the continuum of the Torah She'be'al Peh, the Oral Torah, to the point where the entire Oral Torah is attributed solely to Rabbi Akiva. The Talmud even goes as far as to say that Rabbi Akiva is only second to Moshe Rabeinu. His students were destined to be the next Torah leaders of the Jewish People, and the next link in the chain of the passing down of the Oral Torah. 

Explore Rabbi Akiva's persona, the significance of the historical context of his students' death and what is the true reason for their demise?

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