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It strikes me as odd that Rabbi Akiva's 24,000 talmidim died apparently because of interpersonal issues yet he is attributed as having said that veahavta lireacha kamocha is a "klal gadol batorah". I've not found anyone that discusses this and was wondering if anyone else has or can shed any more light on it?

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I'm curious if anyone suggests that his mantra came about as a result of that horrible episode. –  Seth J Apr 9 '13 at 1:54
    
Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/9788 –  msh210 Apr 9 '13 at 5:22
    
I had actually wondered that, but I'd intentionally not mentioned it as I wanted to see if anyone had heard it –  wizzardmr42 Apr 9 '13 at 22:49
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3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Chassidic thought explains that because every person is unique in his nature and thought processes, he has a unique path in the service of G-d. Similarly, each of Rabbi Akiva’s disciples had his own approach. Because they were highly developed individuals, each had internalized his particular approach to the point that it dominated his personality.

Operating from within his own perspective, each considered any approach different from his own as incomplete, inadequate and inferior. Being men of integrity, they no doubt spoke their minds plainly. And since all were intensely involved in their own paths of service, none would change. The tension between them escalated, as the deep commitment every student felt to his own particular approach prevented him from showing respect for those who followed a different path.

What was wrong with the students’ perspective? Nothing and everything.

Nothing, because every one of the paths proposed by the students could have been correct.

And everything, because their tunnel-vision prevented them from seeing any version of the truth other than their own.

No matter how deeply we are involved in our own service to G-d, we must remain broadminded enough to appreciate that someone else may have a different approach. Although, from our perspective, other paths may appear inadequate, this perception may stem from our own limitations.

Furthermore, even if someone is indeed underdeveloped, his deficiencies need not prevent us from looking upon him in a favorable light. For every individual possesses a potential for growth. We should concentrate on helping others realize that potential, rather than merely accentuating their need to do so.

http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/91436/jewish/Keeping-In-Touch-Lag-BaOmer.htm

TL;DR

They loved each other; Alot. They loved each other so much that they had to ensure that the other served Hashem in the most optimal manner (the one they considered to be the most optimal manner). This (fairly obviously) resulted in fights.

(PS. Very apropos to a lot of people!)

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I'm not certain that this answers the question, which seems to ask for an explanation of why R' Akiva's students apparently did not adequately absorb the central teaching above, despite their differences. –  Fred Apr 8 '13 at 22:30
    
@Fred they loved each other, the wrong way –  Shmuel Brin Apr 8 '13 at 22:39
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That conclusion would be an answer; perhaps you should edit it in explicitly. –  Fred Apr 8 '13 at 22:42
    
@Fred fixed . . –  Shmuel Brin Apr 9 '13 at 5:26
    
Better. Thanks. –  Seth J Apr 9 '13 at 5:28
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Dorash Dovid on sefirah page 185(Hebrew edition) explains that the time between pesach and shavuos is like chol hamoed it is a holy time.He then explains that the greater one is the greater their yetzer harah becomes(sukkah 52a).On shvuos they bring chametz for the shtei halechem instead of the usual matzah,to remind us of the yetzer harsh and to overcome it.on Mayan Torah one works to be elevated and therefore through attaining kedusha the yetzer harah gets stronger and one needs to be reminded of this.

He ends by saying that when a person tries to work on something particular , it is that thing the yetzer harah tries to get them.It is for this reason since the talmidim knew how important the mitzvah of vahvtah is the more they yetzer harah tried to get them to slip.It is also for this reason why it happened during the time of sefirah since it is a holy time the yetzer harah is stronger than usual.

see it inside for more detail.

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I asked Rabbi Dovid Rosenbaum, shlita, how every one of Rabbi Akiva's 24,000 students could not have treated each other with proper respect when Rabbi Akiva had taught that the most important pasuk in the Torah was "V'Ahavta l'Reacha Kamocha . . ." ("you shall love your fellow as yourself")? He answered with another question: "The better question is when did he teach that -- before or after the deaths of his students?" He said that the Gemara does not give us that context. It is possible, maybe probable, that he taught it after their deaths.

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