Once, the wicked government [of Rome] decreed that the Jewish people were forbidden to study Torah. Pappus ben Judah saw Rabbi Akiva convening gatherings in public and studying Torah [with them]. Said he to him: “Akiva, are you not afraid of the government?”
Said [Rabbi Akiva] to him: “I’ll give you a parable.
“A fox was walking along a river and saw fish rushing to and fro. Said he to them: ‘What are you fleeing?’
“Said they to him: ‘The nets that the humans spread for us.’
“Said he to them: ‘Why don’t you come out onto the dry land? We’ll live together, as my ancestors lived with your ancestors.’
“Said they to him: ‘Are you the one of whom it is said that you are the wisest of animals? You’re not wise, but foolish! If, in our environment of life we have cause for fear, how much more so in the environment of our death!’
“The same applies to us. If now, when we sit and study the Torah, of which it is said, ‘For it is your life and the lengthening of your days[3],’ such is our situation, how much more so if we neglect it . . .” [4]