Getting Motivated

Getting Motivated

Part 2 of the Rebbe’s ma’amer Ani Ledodi 5732 (1972).

Read Part 1 here.

Approximately 8 minutes to read.

In Elul the king is in the field—G-d is available for us to approach. Now is a time for personal stocktaking, introspection, and a sincere change of heart from our less than positive behavior.

In the previous installment, our ma’amer asked several questions:

If Elul is the time when “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine,” — a time of love and fear, then why does it say elsewhere that Elul is a time of fear and Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are a time of love?

Before fully answering this question, we explored the Tur’s statement that during Elul we blow the shofar to inspire awe of G-d. We see, therefore, that Elul is indeed a time of deepening our awe of Him.

Furthermore, the metaphor of the people leaving the city and meeting the king in the field—initiating their relationship—implies that Elul contains the theme of developing awe of G-d.

How can we apply this to how we relate to friends and family? With strangers?

How does this knowledge apply to our relationship with G-d?


To understand the ideas discussed in the previous installment in more detail,   ג) וּבִּיאוּר הָעִנְיָן בְּפְרָטִיוֹת יוֹתֵר
we must first understand the Tzemach Tzedek’s explanation in the Alter Rebbe’s ma’amer about blowing the shofar in Elul.   יוּבָן עַל-פִּי מַה שֶׁכָּתַב הַצֶמַח צֶדֶק בְּמַאֲמָר14 שֶׁמְבַאֵר עִנְיָן תְּקִיעַת שׁוֹפָר בְּרֹאשׁ חֹדֶשׁ אֱלוּל,
Blowing the shofar in Elul is a prelude to the shofar blowing on Rosh Hashanah.   דְזֶה שֶׁתּוֹקְעִין בְּשׁוֹפָר בְּחוֹדֶשׁ אֱלוּל הוּא הַקְדָמָה לְתְּקִיעַת שׁוֹפָר דְרֹאשׁ הַשָׁנָה.
The difference between the shofar blowing of Elul and Rosh Hashanah is that   דְהַחִילוּק בֵּין תְּקִיעַת שׁוֹפָר דְאֱלוּל וְתְּקִיעַת שׁוֹפָר דְרֹאשׁ הַשָׁנָה הוּא,
the fear (and the quaking) that the shofar blowing causes in Elul is a lower-level fear.   שֶׁהַיִרְאָה (וְהַחָרָדָה) הַבָּאָה עַל-יְדֵי תְּקִיעַת שׁוֹפָר דְאֱלוּל הִיא יִרְאָה תַּתָּאָה,
On the other hand, the fear (and trembling) the shofar blowing on Rosh Hashanah causes is a higher-level fear.   וְהַיִרְאָה (וְהַחָרָדָה) הַבָּאָה עַל-יְדֵי תְּקִיעַת שׁוֹפָר דְרֹאשׁ הַשָׁנָה הִיא יִרְאָה עִילָאָה.
The reason why we blow the shofar throughout the month of Elul and on Rosh Hashanah is   וְזֶהוּ שֶׁתִּקְנוּ לִתְּקוֹעַ בְּשׁוֹפָר בְּרֹאשׁ חֹדֶשׁ אֱלוּל וּבְּכָל הַחוֹדֶשׁ,
because lower-level fear must precede higher-level fear.   כִּי בִּכְדֵי לָבוֹא לְיִרְאָה עִילָאָה צָרִיךְ לִהְיוֹת תְּחִלָה יִרְאָה תַּתָּאָה.
Another reason why we blow the shofar throughout Elul is   וְעוֹד טַעַם עַל זֶה שֶׁתּוֹקְעִין בְּשׁוֹפָר בְּחוֹדֶשׁ אֱלוּל קוֹדֶם רֹאשׁ הַשָׁנָה הוּא,
because the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah begin from Rosh Hashana—   כִּי בְּעַשֶׂרֶת יְמֵי תְּשׁוּבָה, מַתְחִיל מֵרֹאשׁ הַשָׁנָה,
we, therefore, need to draw from the makkif to fill the void we caused throughout the year.   צָרִיךְ לְהַמְשִׁיךְ מֵהַמַּקִּיף בִּכְדֵי לְמַלְאוֹת מַה שֶׁפָּגְמוּ בְּמֶשֶׂךְ כָּל הַשָׁנָה,
Seemingly, the makkif the Rebbe refers to here is the inspiration of Rosh Hashanah and the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah.

What is makkif?

Simply put, makkif is a type of expression which is above our ability to grasp or internalize fully.

For example, if a person is not motivated to exercise and a friend agrees to train with them, that motivation they feel to work out is external. In all likelihood, this person won’t continue after the friend stops offering their moral support.

The following is another example of makkif. Imagine two homeowners in a state that require its residents to recycle by law. The first person separates his trash so he doesn’t get fined. The second person takes environmental protection personally and as a result, she is careful to separate her recycling from her trash. Both people recycle, but the first person is “forced” by an external element and the second believes her behavior helps save the planet. The first person is affected by a makkif while the second person is motivated by her values and beliefs. She might even take more active measures to behave according to her values—she might compost or reuse things more, etc.

We too have a parallel in Judaism.

We can be externally motivated by our environment to keep more mitzvos or up the quality of our learning. Environmental motivators—being around certain people, learning certain ideas, or being in the right place—are G-d’s way of inspiring us. Since this kind of motivation is external, it is short lived. This inspiration is called makkif.

Among makkifim, there are more external and less external makkifim as will be brought up later in the ma’amer.


Motivation and Humility

Drawing the makkif and being affected by it happens through humility.   וְהַמְשָׁכַת הַמַּקִּיף הוּא עַל-יְדֵי הַבִּיטוּל דַּוְקָא.
The Alter Rebbe in Torah Ohr explains:   וּכְּמְבוּאָר בְּתּוֹרָה אוֹר15
Regarding the verse, “The heavens are My throne, and the earth is My footstool; which is the house that you will build for Me…But to this one will I look, to one poor and with a crushed spirit.”   עַל הַפָּסוּק16 הַשָָּׁמַיִם כִּסְאִי וְהָאָרֶץ הֲדֹם רַגְלָי אֵי זֶה בַיִת גוֹמֶר, וְאֶל זֶה אַבִּיט אֶל עָנִי וּנְכֵה רוּחַ,
The heavens and the earth characterize Torah and mitzvos.   דְשָָּׁמַיִם וָאָרֶץ הֵם תּוֹרָה וּמִצְווֹת,
The energy we draw from Torah and mitzvos is an internal one— “My throne…and…footstool.”   דְהָהַמְשָׁכָה שֶׁעַל-יְדֵי תּוֹרָה וּמִצְווֹת הוּא אוֹר פְּנִימִי, כִּסְּאִי וַהֲדוֹם רַגְלָי,
Torah and mitzvos, in this case, have an internal effect on us—the Torah we learn can be understood and the mitzvos we do directly affect our behavior.
To draw the makkif, “which is the house” — a home being a makkif—   וּבִּכְדֵי לְהַמְשִׁיךְ הַמַּקִּיפִים, אֵי זֶה בַיִת גו’, דְבַיִת הוּא מַקִּיף
(among makkifim, a home is more external than clothes, for example)   (וּבְּמַּקִּיפִים עַצְמָם מַקִּיף הָרָחוֹק),
we need humility.   הוּא עַל-יְדֵי הַבִּיטוּל, עָנִי וּנְכֵה רוּחַ וְחָרֵד עַל דְּבָרִי.
To fully appreciate and be affected by the inspiration of Elul and Rosh Hashanah, we need to be humble enough. Otherwise, the inspiration will be fleeting.
We blow the shofar in Elul   וְלָכֵן תּוֹקְעִין בְּשׁוֹפָר בְּאֱלוּל,
to draw the makkif of Rosh Hashanah   כִּי בִּכְדֵי שֶׁתִּהְיֶה הַמְשָׁכַת הַמַּקִּיף בְּרֹאשׁ הַשָׁנָה צָרִיךְ לִהְיוֹת נְכֵה רוּחַ וְחָרֵד,
we sound the shofar inspiring awe and trembling thereby inspiring humility.   וְעַל-יְדֵי תְּקִיעַת שׁוֹפָר בָּאִים לְחָרָדָה.
We need to understand—by blowing the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, we’ll be awestruck,   וְצָרִיךְ לְהָבִין, הַרֵי גַּם עַל-יְדֵי שֶׁתּוֹקְעִין בְּרֹאשׁ הַשָׁנָה בָּאִים לַחֲרָדָה17,
in fact, the effect of Rosh Hashanah is far greater than the inspiration of Elul.   וְאַדְרַבָּה, הַחָרָדָה דְרֹאשׁ הַשָׁנָה הִיא גְּדוֹלָה יוֹתֵר מֵהַחֲרֵדָה דְאֱלוּל,
And like we mentioned above, whereas the effect of the shofar blowing in Elul is the lower-level fear   וּכְּנִזְכָּר לְעֵיל בְּהַמַאֲמָר שֶׁהַחֲרָדָה הַבָּאָה מִתְּקִיעַת שׁוֹפָר דְאֱלוּל הִיא יִרְאָה תַּתָּאָה,
the effect of the shofar blowing on Rosh Hashanah is higher-level fear.   וְהַחָרָדָה הַבָּאָה מִתְּקִיעַת שׁוֹפָר דְרֹאשׁ הַשָׁנָה הִיא יִרְאָה עִילָאָה.
Nevertheless, to internalize the impact of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, we need to prepare by blowing the shofar in Elul.   וְאַף עַל פִּי כֵן, הַמְשָׁכַת הַמַּקִּיף בְּרֹאשׁ הַשָׁנָה הִיא עַל-יְדֵי הַחָרָדָה הַבָּאָה מִתְּקִיעַת שׁוֹפָר דְאֱלוּל.
The shofar-blowing on Rosh Hashanah has the ability to inspire higher-level fear—but to internalize the excitement, the awe, and the inspiration, we need to be prepared. Higher-level fear needs to be preceded by lower-level fear. The shofar-blowing in Elul—the month in which we prepare mentally, emotionally, and spiritually for Rosh Hashanah—reminds us and inspires us enough to attain lower-level fear. 

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14. ד”ה אם יתקע שופר בעיר – אוה”ת נצבים ע’ א’רפ ואילך (ובכותרת שם: “ענין תקיעת שופר בר”ח אלול”). וצע”ק ההדגשה כאן ובכ”מ דר”ח.
15. ר”פ בראשית, הובא באוה”ת שם ס”ע א’רפב.
16. ישעי’ סו, א-ב.
17. וראה אבודרהם בטעמי התקיעות מרס”ג שבתק”ש דר”ה עשרה ענינים, ו”הענין השביעי” הוא כי טבע השופר מרעיד ומחריד.

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