On motivation

As Yacov’s travels are described in parshat Vayetze, the commentaries are attuned to the ebbs and flows of Yacov’s motivation levels as he makes this uncertain journey. What can we learn about the nature of motivation from Yacov’s experience?First, Yacov leaves Beersheba and goes toward Haran. The Talmud teaches that Yacov had “K’fitzat derech.” God shortened the route for him so that it would pass quickly. Why was this necessary?

Yacov was just sent away from his home, his family and everything he knows. Perhaps the miraculous “kefitzat derech” is meant to help Yaacov who is somewhat overwhelmed by all of these drastic changes. This is further reinforced by the Yacov’s vow and God’s prophecy of reassurance — that he will survive and eventually return home safely. Yacov is concerned for his future.

In contradistinction to this, when Yacov resumes his journey the Torah states that he “carried his feet.” Most commentaries understand this to mean that he was relieved, inspired and happy after hearing the word of God. This excitement is reinforced by the next scene when he sees Rachel and manages to lift a heavy stone off of a well with superhuman strength. The Ramban explains that even though Yacov was exhausted from his long journey, his renewed hope and emunah gave him strength and fortified him. Additionally, he has now found Rachel and a loving relationship.

Current circumstances have posed a challenge: how do we stay motivated in life, work or school without regular routines and interaction with peers? May we all find the strength to lift up our feet in life like Yacov, to find motivation wherever it is needed, through faith, inspiration and encouraging each other. Shabbat Shalom.

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** Artwork – “Jacob’s Ladder” by Yacov Agam.

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