In 134 CE, the great Talmudic sage, Rabbi Akiva, was taken captive by the Romans, and executed five days later in Caesarea, Israel. Rabbi Akiva had been a 40-year-old shepherd who could not even read the Aleph-Bet. One day, he came across a stone that had been holed out by a constant drip of water. He concluded: If something as soft as water can carve a hole in solid rock, how much more so can Torah -- which is fire -- make an indelible impression on my heart. Rabbi Akiva committed himself to Torah study, and went on to become the greatest sage of his generation, with 24,000 students learning under him at one time. The Roman authorities eventually arrested him for "illegally" teaching Torah. As he was being tortured, Rabbi Akiva rejoiced in fulfilling the biblical command to "love God with all your life." As he died, Rabbi Akiva uttered the words of Shema Yisrael. His self-sacrifice for Torah continues to inspire Jews till today.