Talmud, Makkot 24b
Rabbi Akiva lived at the time of the destruction of the Second Temple and he lived into the period of Exile after the Destruction. It was a time of terrible depression. It was one of the worst periods in Jewish history. Jews were downtrodden, desperate, and at times, hopeless.
It was always Rabbi Akiva's practice to cheer up his companions and to tell them not to give up hope.
In Makkos, we learn of the incident where the Sages saw a fox emerge from the area that formerly housed the Holy of Holies.
"Rabbi Akiva, why are you laughing?"
This is what his fellow Sages Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria, Rabbi Joshua asked him with tears in their eyes upon seeing a fox come out of the site where once had stood the Holy of Holies in the now-destroyed Beit Hamikdash.
"Why are you weeping?" responded Rabbi Akiva.
"We see a place so sacred that the Torah warned that any outsider who entered would die is now desecrated by a fox parading there," they explained, "so how can we not cry?"
Rabbi Akiva comforted them, explaining that what they saw was a positive omen. If the prophecy that predicted that foxes would walk in that place was fulfilled,
"For that very reason," explained Rabbi Akiva, "I laugh with joy, explaining that what they saw was a positive omen. The prophecy of Uriah regarding the destruction and exile concludes with Har Habayit – Temple Mount – turning into a jungle. Until that came true I dared not yet look forward to the fulfillment of the prophecy of Zecharia regarding redemption. Now that I see that fox I realize the first prophecy has been fulfilled so too the prophecies of redemption will be fulfilled and I can begin to look forward to the fulfillment of the second."With these words they replied to him: "Akiva, you have consoled us! Akiva, you have consoled us!"
May we all merit Rabbi Akiva’s laughter and witness, quickly and in our time, the rebuilding of our
כִּי נִחַם ה' צִיּוֹן נִחַם כָּל חָרְבֹתֶיהָ וַיָּשֶׂם מִדְבָּרָהּ כְּעֵדֶן וְעַרְבָתָהּ כְּגַן ה' שָׂשׂוֹן וְשִׂמְחָה יִמָּצֵא בָהּ תּוֹדָה וְקוֹל זִמְרָה
ki niham hashem tziyyon niham kol horvoteha vayasem midbarah k'eden v'arvatah k'gan hashem
sasson v'simhah yimatze vah todah v'kol zimra
God has turned Zion around: restored all its ruins, made its desert into Eden, and its Arava like God's garden; Great joy is to be found there, thanksgiving and voices of song !