R. Akiva was a shepherd of Kalba Savua. The latter’s daughter, seeing how modest and noble he was, said to him, “Were I to be betrothed to you, would you go away to [study at] an academy?” “Yes”, he replied. She was then secretly betrothed to him and sent him away. When her father heard, he drove her from his house and forbade her by a vow to have any benefit from his estate.
[R. Akiva] departed, and spent twelve years at the academy. When he returned home, he brought with him twelve thousand disciples. He heard an old man saying to her, “How long will you lead the life of a living widowhood?” “If he would listen to me”, she replied, “he would spend [in study] another twelve years”. Said [R. Akiva]: “It is then with her consent that I am acting”, and he departed again and spent another twelve years at the academy.
When he finally returned, he brought with him twenty-four thousand disciples. His wife heard and went out to meet him, when her neighbours said to her, “Borrow some respectable clothes and put them on”, but she replied, “A righteous man knoweth the life of his beast”. On approaching him she fell upon her face and kissed his feet. His attendants were about to thrust her aside, when [R. Akiva] cried to them, “Leave her alone, mine and yours are hers”.
Her father, on hearing that a great man had come to the town, said, “I shall go to him, perchance he will invalidate my vow”. When he came to him, [R. Akiva asked], “Would you have made your vow if you had known that he was a great man?” “[Had he known]”, the other replied, “even one chapter or even one single halachah [I would not have made the vow]”. He said to him, “I am the man”. The other fell upon his face and kissed his feet and also gave him half of his wealth”.
The daughter of R. Akiva acted in a similar way towards ben Azzai. This is indeed an illustration of the proverb: “Ewe follows ewe, a daughter’s acts are like those of her mother”