Rabbi Akiva ben Yosef was a third generation Tana. Originally an ignoramus, he began studying Torah under Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua, eventually become the leading Torah authority. Rabbi Akiva's original 24,000 students died in a plague but his five surviving students that included Rabbi Shimon, Rabbi Meir, Rabbi Yossi and Rabbi Yehuda keep the chain of Torah alive in for the Jewish Nation. Rabbi Akiva was executed by the Roman government as one of the Ten Martyrs, at age 120 and was buried in Tiberias.
Following the Bar Kochva rebellion the Roman Government issued a decree forbidding the Jews to study Torah. Rabbi Akiva disregarded the decree, continuing to create public gatherings where he taught Torah. He was approached by Pupas ben Yehuda he inquired about his lack of fear from the Romans. Rabbi Akiva replied with a parable of fox who suggested to a group of fish escaping from hunters that they join him on the dry land. To this the fish responded that on land they would surely die. Rabbi Akiva then compared it to their situation, if they would stop studying Torah which is the life force of the Jews, they would surely not survive.
Shortly after this Rabbi Akiva was caught and jailed. Pupas ben Yehuda was arrested for a different reason and imprisoned in the same jail. When Rabbi Akiva inquired the reason for his imprisonment, Pupas responded "Fortunate are you Rabbi Akiva that you were imprisoned for the Torah, Woe is to Pupas who was arrested for mundane matters".
When they took him out to be executed it was the time for reading the Shema. While they were combing his flesh with metal combs, Rabbi Akiva was busy reciting the Shema and accepting upon himself the yoke of Heaven. His students who witnessed this wanted to know why their master was taking this so far. Rabbi Akiva responded that his entire life he yearned to fulfill the verse that states a that a person must serve Hashem with all his soul, meaning even if his life was being sacrificed. Now that he actually had the opportunity to actively fulfill this he is definitely going to fulfill it. When Rabbi Akiva reached the word 'Achud' he stretched it out, his soul departing as he was saying it. A heavenly Bas Kol voice came out and said fortunate are you Rabbi Akiva that your soul left you as you were saying 'Echad'.
Upon seing this, the angles complained to Hashem how can it be that this is the reward for Torah. Hashem responded that the reward is in the Next World. A heavenly Bas Kol voice came out and said fortunate are you Rabbi Akiva that you are invited to the life of the Next World.
 Sefer Yetzirah
Avraham Avinu was a master of the Kabbalah and knew how to channel all the energies of creation through the twenty two letters of the Aleph Beit. He would use these spiritual meditations to create Golam beings. His teachings were handed down generation through generation to the elite schools of Kabblah and were eventually formed into the final edition of the Sefer Yetzirah by Rabbi Akiva.
- ^ Talmud Bavli Brachos 61B