1

When did the Jews first observe laws of mourning over the death of Rabbi Akiva's students? Did it commence the first year after the death of the students or was it instituted at a later period in time?

  • 3
    There's no record of widespread mourning till centuries after it happened. That's not necessarily a proof of anything. – Double AA Apr 15 '18 at 19:47
2

R. Yaakov Ben Asher implies that these customs are of gaonic origin. In Tur O.C. 493 he writes:

נוהגין בכל המקומות שלא לישא אשה בין פסח לעצרת והטעם שלא להרבות בשמחה שבאותו זמן מתו תלמידי ר"ע וכתב הר"י גיאת דוקא נישואין שהוא עיקר שמחה אבל לארס ולקדש שפיר דמי ונישואין נמי מי שקפץ וכנס אין עונשין אותו אבל אם בא לעשות בתחלה אין מורין לו לעשות כך וכזה הורו הגאונים

The custom in all places is to not marry a woman between Passover and Shavuot, and the reason is so as not to increase in joy since during that time the students of R. Akiva died. And R. Isaac Ibn Ghiyyat wrote that this is specifically marriage which is the main joy, but betrothal is fine. And even with marriage, if one jumps ahead and marries we don't punish him, but if he comes to do so originally we do not rule for him to so, and so have the gaonim ruled.

R. Yechiel Michel Epstein, however, states explicitly in Aruch Hashulchan O.C. 493:2 that the custom goes back to the gaonic era:

ולפיכך נהגו כל ישראל מימות הגאונים שלא לישא אשה בין פסח לעצרת

And therefore all of Israel had the custom from the days of the gaonim to not marry a woman between Passover and Shavuot.

  • +1 but you probably mean "at least as old as the geonim" as DoubleAA pointed out in his comment on the question – mbloch Feb 15 at 4:41

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