Acquiring Torah 11: Private Recognition
Rabbi Ba said: Originally, each Sage would ordain his own students; Rabbi Yochanan ordained Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua. Rabbi Yehoshua ordained Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Akiva ordained Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Shimon. Rabbi Akiva said, “Rabbi Meir should sit before Rabbi Shimon sits.” Rabbi Akiva saw that Rabbi Shimon was hurt (Pnei Moshe: Rabbi Shimon thought that Rabbi Akiva did not respect his learning). Rabbi Akiva said to him; “It is enough for you that I and your Creator recognize your strengths!” Rabbi Shimon was assuaged (Yerushalmi Sanhedrin 1:2 6a-b).
Rabbi Akiva taught his student, Rabbi Shimon, that one who studies Torah must look only to God and the student’s Rebbi for recognition of his strengths. He cannot look for any other form of acknowledgement, for it would be a dustraction. Torah is a relationship with God. Only His approval matters. Torah study is a private matter between the student and God.
God’s approval is indicated by the Rebbi’s acknowledgement, which is the only reason Rabbi Akiva would place his respect for Rabbi Shimon before God’s recognition of the student, “I and your Creator recognize.”