A shepherd was tending flock in the hills of Judah. He became thirsty and went to his favorite brook in the hills to take a drink. As he was drawing the crystal clear water in his palm and putting it to his mouth, something caught his eye. He saw drops of water falling on a huge stone – drip, drop – and directly where the drops were falling there was a deep hole in the stone. The shepherd was fascinated. He gazed at the drops and at the stone.

“What mighty power there is in a drop of water,” thought the shepherd. “Could my stony heart ever be softened up that way?”

“Hello, Akiba! What are you gazing at?” It was Rachel, his master’s daughter. She was wise and kind and fair.

“Look what the little drops of water did to the rock,” Akiba exclaimed. “Do you think there is hope for me? Suppose I began to study the Torah, little by little, drop by drop. Do you think my stony heart would soften up?”

“O yes! Akiba. If you persevere, if you keep it up as these drops of water.”

But I am forty years old! Is it not too late to start?”

“O no, Akiba. It is never too late. If you promise to learn our holy Torah, I know you will not be ignorant for long.”

The shepherd gazed at the drops of water for a long time, and then his mind was made up.

And this is how Akiba the shepherd became the great Rabbi Akiba, the greatest and wisest scholar and teacher of his day, who had 24 thousand pupils! He often told them that it was a drop of water that changed his life.