A man sitting across from his rabbi lamented, “I am so unlearned! I feel unworthy when I am around educated people.”
“Why do you feel this way?” The rabbi asked.
“I know very little.” Stumbling for words, he sighed. “In fact, I have no idea what is contained in the Torah.”
The rabbi sat back in deep thought. Carefully choosing his words, he inquired, “If you feel this way, why didn’t you spend more time in study? Even if you can’t read, certainly you could have sat with the sages and acquired wisdom from their teachings.”
“What would be the use?” The man replied. “God did not give me the capacity for understanding and discernment.”
“What is your occupation?” The rabbi asked.
“I am just a fisherman,” he meekly answered.
“A fisherman!” The rabbi exclaimed. “Well then, who taught you to weave nets? And where did you learn how to case them over the waters in order to catch fish?”
“Oh, I suppose this was a gift that I acquired from Heaven. Yes, I do have the understanding to master this single skill. This is my one successful purpose.”
The wise rabbi said, “Do you not suppose that if God has given you the acumen to earn a good living as a fisherman, you were also given sufficient intelligence to learn Torah? After all, it is said in the Torah, ‘These laws are not hard for you. They are not distant but very near.’ This is found in the book of Deuteronomy.”
As the fisherman listened intently, he began to weep. “Yes Rabbi, you are right. If I was able to learn to fish, I can also catch a few words of Torah.”
“Do not be dismayed,” the rabbi said in a soft voice. “Other people have thought like you. But it does not matter what a person’s occupation is. As long as you are willing to learn something new each day, it is never too late to educate yourself.”
(Talmudic Source: Sedar Eliyahu Zuta 14)