The Gemara (in Kesubos 63a) says, “When Rabbi Akiva returned, he brought twelve thousand students with him. As he approached his home, he heard a certain old man saying to [his wife], ‘Until when will you lead a life of living widowhood?’ She answered him, ‘If he would listen to me, he would sit in the beis medrash another twelve years.’ Hearing this, [R’ Akiva] said to himself, ‘I am acting with my wife’s permission.’ He went back and sat another twelve years in the beis medrash…”

Who was the old man that was talking to Rabbi Akiva's wife?

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    This story occurs elsewhere with different wording. As a result, there is a machlokes as to whether this is Elijah (tosafos says hahu Saba almost universally means Elijah), some random old guy (who uses the stronger language elsewhere), or possibly both simultaneously. Commented Apr 27, 2015 at 11:43

1 Answer 1


Tosfos in Chullin 6a cites an opinion that ההוא סבא refers to Eliyahu Hanavi and rejects this assertion. This opinion is apparently found earlier among the Gaonim but is also debated.

In נדרים נ ע"א a nearly identical strory is told about חד רשע - a certain evildoer, but these 2 stories may not be referring to the same event.

For a full discussion of the identification of this topic see here

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