...It is stated: “In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening do not withhold your hand; for you do not know which shall prosper, whether this or that, or whether they both alike shall be good” (Ecclesiastes 11:6).
Rabbi Akiva says that the verse should be understood as follows: If one studied Torah in his youth he should study more Torah in his old age; if he had students in his youth he should have additional students in his old age, as it is stated: “In the morning sow your seed, etc.”
They said by way of example that Rabbi Akiva had twelve thousand pairs of students, and they all died in one period of time, because they did not treat each other with respect. And the world was desolate of Torah until Rabbi Akiva came to our Rabbis in the South and taught his Torah to them. And these are the very ones who upheld the study of Torah at that time. Although Rabbi Akiva’s earlier students did not survive, his later disciples were able to transmit the Torah to future generations.