Akiva was an illiterate second-century shepherd. Though he hadn’t sprouted from a long line of Jewish scholars, he became one of the most famous rabbis in history. According to a rabbinic tale, this is how his story began:
“He was forty years old and had not yet learned a thing. Once, he stood at the mouth of a well and asked, ‘Who hollowed this stone?’ He was told, ‘Is it not the water which constantly falls on it day after day?’”1
Akiva realized that if water could carve away stone, then the Scripture could carve a way into his heart, transforming him from an ignorant man into a sage.
Many centuries later, another rabbi pointed out that the stone could only have been hollowed out by water falling drop by drop. Had the water poured out all at once in a torrent, it would have run quickly over the rock, leaving no trace behind.2
The metaphor of water and rock is a good one for us to apply to our own journey toward peace. Biblical peace, as we have established, is far more than simply a feeling of calm or a cessation of conflict. Shalom involves those things and more, including healing, wholeness, well-being, completeness, soundness, safety, success, perfection, and good relationships between people and nations. Peace in our world is a goal we lean toward, like plants toward sunshine. As we steep ourselves in Scripture and yield ourselves to God, we experience shalom in ever-deepening measures.
Try opening the Bible today and imagining yourself as that rock. Ask God to pour out his life-giving water as you read his words and apply them to your life.
- The Fathers According to Rabbi Nathan 6:2, quoted in Joseph Telushkin, The Book of Jewish Values: A Day-By-Day Guide to Ethical Living (New York: Bell Tower, 2000), 1.
- This analogy was made in the nineteenth century by Rabbi Israel Salanter, as pointed out in Telushkin, The Book of Jewish Values, 1.