Avot De-Rabbi Natan, version 1, chapter 6
1 א
אבות דרבי נתן, פרק שיש
מה היה תחילתו של רבי עקיבא? אמרו, בן ארבעים שנה היה ולא שנה כלום. פעם אחת היה עומד על פי הבאר. אמר: מי חקק אבן זו? אמרו לו: המים שתדיר נופלים עליה בכל יום. אמרו לו: עקיבא אי אתה קורא "אבנים שחקו מים"? מיד היה רבי עקיבא דן קל וחומר בעצמו: מה רך פסל את הקשה, דברי תורה שקשה כברזל על אחת כמה וכמה שיחקקו את לבי שהוא בשר ודם. מיד חזר ללמוד תורה.
How did Rabbi Akiva start out? They said: he was forty years old and had never studied anything. Once he stood at a well. He said, "Who engraved this stone?" They told him, "[It was] the water, which drips upon it every day." And they said to him, "Akiva, are you not familiar [with the verse,] 'As the waters wear away the stones'?" On the spot, Rabbi Akiva made the following deduction: If something soft [like water] could chisel its way through something hard [like stone], then surely the words of Torah, which are as hard as iron, can penetrate my heart, which is flesh and blood!" Immediately, he returned to studying Torah.
3 ג

Suggested Discussion Questions:

At the beginning of the text, Rabbi Akiva is unable to understand how water altered the face of the stone. Why?

What lesson about life does Rabbi Akiva conclude from the stone?

What does the stone represent, and what does the water?

What are the difficulties standing in front of Rabbi Akiva at the beginning and end of a story (after deciding to study the Torah)?

4 ד
Time Period: Rabbinic (Maccabees through the Talmud)