#52 Masada, Bar Kochba & Rabbi Akiba

#52 Masada, Bar Kochba, & Rabbi Akiba

In this lesson you will learn about Masada, the Bar Kochba revolt, and you will meet Rabbi Akiba. Each of these three topics represents an important episode in early Jewish history.


Masada was built by King Herod as a fortress in the Judean Desert near the Dead Sea. In 70 CE, the Romans captured Jerusalem and the lucky survivors and Jewish soldiers who refused to give into Roman control fled from Jerusalem to Masada. The Jewish revolt lasted two years at Masada but finally, the walls of Masada were breached. The historian Josephus recorded this in his book, The Jewish War. “The Romans took up arms at daybreak for their assault. On all sides of Masada, nothing but silence. Masada was thus taken, The Roman general departed, and there was not an enemy of Rome left in the country.”

#2 WATCH: The Story of Masada


100 years after Masada, another group of Jewish zealots began to organize a revolt against the Roman occupiers. A man named Simon Bar Kochba (Son of a Star) was a brave young leader who had enormous strength and spirit. Starting in 132 CE, Bar Kochba led successful raids from secure hiding spots in the Judean valleys and caves. He built and designed an elaborate cave structure where he and his fellow Jews lived for several years. Similar to the victories of the Maccabees, in 135 CE, Bar Kochba pushed the Roman army out of Judea and they had two short years of local independence.

#4 WATCH: Climbing Through the Bar Kochba Caves

#5 STUDY: Meet Rabbi Akiba

Rabbi Akiba was one of the spiritual leaders of the Jews during the time of Bar Kochba. He loved the Jewish People and Jewish tradition and worked diligently to protect Jewish teachings and to keep the Jewish flame alive. During a time when most Jews left Judaism and began to practice Roman and other foreign religions, Rabbi Akiba ben Natan kept the story of Judaism alive by creating the Mishnah. Rabbi Akiba’s is a Jewish role model that shows us the different ways of keeping a tradition alive. He did not use his body to physically defend against the enemies, he used his mind to write the Mishnah to record tradition and to help people practice Judaism in a new era.

It is said of Rabbi Akiba: ” What was Rabbi Akiva like? – A worker who goes out with his basket. He finds wheat – he puts it in, barley – he puts it in, spelt – he puts it in, beans – he puts it in, lentils – he puts it in. When he arrives home he sorts out the wheat by itself, barley by itself, spelt by itself, beans by themselves, lentils by themselves. So did Rabbi Akiva; he arranged the Torah rings by rings. —Avot deRabbi Natan

#6 Review and Response

1. What is the name of the fortress in the Judean Desert?
2. What year did the Roman’s break down the walls of Masada?
3. Who was Bar Kochba and what did he accomplish for the Jewish people?
4. Who was Rabbi Akiba and what did he do?
5. Is Judaism worth defending in your opinion? Why or why not?

Need some help? We’re here for you. At any time, if you have any questions, please contact one of our teachers so we can help you. Also, at the end of the session, remember to review your responses in your Tamid Workbook so you can get credit for this lesson. Behatzlacha (Hebrew for good luck)! You can reach Sarah at (646)360-0689 or connect@tamidnyc.org