He had left home in despair to escape the wrath of his brother. At that moment his world was in ruins. Where would the future lead him? Would he ever see his parents again? Would his life ever be normal again?
He was lonely and afraid. But his first thought had to be somewhere to spend the night. All he could find was a stone, and that became his pillow.
He succeeded in sleeping, and he had that magnificent dream about the ladder that joined earth to heaven.
God Himself came to him and promised to be by his side. Suddenly life was worthwhile, and he could face the future.
His exhilaration is expressed in three Hebrew words – Vayissa Yaakov raglav, “And Jacob lifted up his feet” (Gen. 29:1). The translators opt for a paraphrase, “And Jacob went on his journey”.
The Midrash, however, prefers the literal approach. It says that God’s promise relieved his mind of anxiety and doubt, so that he could set out with a brisk and confident step.
When you are elated, you are on top of the world. Thus when Jacob’s descendants left Egypt, God “bore them on eagles’ wings” (Ex. 19:4), like anyone who is borne aloft by a great experience and their feet hardly touch the ground.
Likewise, Moses was elated at the Burning Bush, the prophets when they saw great visions, thinkers when they had a flash of understanding, and inventors when they saw how to solve a problem.
Religion, too, brings exhilaration; Max Kadushin says that even making a b’rachah puts you on a spiritual high.