Out of all famous Kabbalists, I have been always fascinated the most with the character of Rabi Akiva. I can’t say exactly why, but from the moment that I heard his story – the story of someone who started to study Torah at age 45, became the greatest of his generation with over 25,000 students – the story of true love between man and woman, the story of personal sacrifices and dedication to find the truth and attain the Creator, made great impression on me.
I therefore was shocked when I heard that some entities firmly state that Rabbi Akiva was not Jewish, and use this as excuse to push Kabbalah to masses. I bought a book that clarified the history of Rabbi Akiva, who’s grandfather converted to Judaism and thus Rabbi Akiva was 100% Jewish. I highly recommend the book, and even though it’s narrated in easy language it paints a vivid picture of the life of his truly amazing character. LINK TO BOOK
My Rav was also surprised to hear such statement, but unlike me he pointed to exact sources that talk about the history of Rabbi Akiva. Here is what he wrote to me on this topic
“ *Regarding the absurd idea that Rebbe Akiva was a goy; In the middle of a discussion in the Gemarah Mesechtas Brachos daf chaf zion amud bais (page 27b) it says regarding Rebbe Akiva “deles ley zchoos avos” “that he doesn’t have the merit of Forefathers” . One of the Meforshim on that page of Gemorah, Rav Nissim Gaon, explains that this comment is in conjunction with a different Gemorah were it says that “there are from the children’s children of Sisrah (a non-Jew),that studied Torah in Jerusalem” which is referring to Rebbe Akiva. We see then that rebbe Akiva was the descendent of a convert and that is why he is lacking the merit of Forefathers. The Rambam states that it was actually Rebbe Akivas Father who converted to become a Jew. In any case it is quite clear that our Teacher the Holy Rebbe Akiva was Jewish !!”
I hope this clarifies the topic a bit. At any rate, if you have anything interesting to add – I’m always hungry to learn more about Rabbi Akiva.