Rachel: Wife of Rabbi Akiba

How they met and the economic support she offered him.

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Only in Avot de-Rabbi Nathan version A (the later version of this midrash), is the name Rachel found. It seems to be based on a misreading of the text in Babylonian Talmud Ketubbot 62b, where we are informed that Rabbi Akiba’s daughter had acted like her mother with regard to her husband--Simeon Ben Azzai--obviously allowing him to go away on his studies for a lengthy period. This statement is followed by a saying intended to describe the daughter’s actions "the sheep went after the sheep." The word sheep and the name Rachel are derived from the same root. Avot de-Rabbi Nathan interpreted the saying as naming the woman.

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Tal Ilan is currently a professor of Jewish studies at the Free University, Berlin (Germany). She was born in Israel and received all her degrees from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She is a historian who specializes in Jewish women's history in antiquity.