The Long-Short Wait

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Yaakov faces many challenges in our parsha. Perhaps the most pernicious is that Lavan interferes with the most precious and intimate day of Yaakov’s life – his wedding day. Lavan switches the bride and Yaakov is forced to wait seven years to marry his true love, Rachel. The Torah describes this waiting period with a short and cryptic phrase: “Yaakov worked seven years for Rachel and they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her.” 

The commentators ask that this attitude is counterintuitive. Usually if one loves something then the wait to receive it is tortuous. How can it be that Yaakov’s love for Rachel caused the time to pass quickly?

The Seforno has a penetrating answer. Indeed, the actual wait of seven years was a difficult period for Yaakov. However, due to his great love for Rachel and how special she was to him, he thought that she was entirely priceless. Even seven years of hard and straight work did not really suffice to gain the privilege to marry such a special person. Therefore, even as experientially the days were “long” and difficult, he evaluated them as “short” due to his high estimation of Rachel.

In this sense, Yaakov is the model for delayed gratification and the long waiting that the Jewish people experienced throughout history. We have been waiting seemingly endlessly for our return to a rebuilt Yerushalayim. Like Yaakov’s wait for Rachel, we deeply love Yerushalayim and wish to return to it, making this wait even more tortuous. Every day we pray, hope, aspire and work towards this eventual goal. And yet, the process is a slow and arduous one. In this difficult exile, it would be natural for the Jewish people to despair and give up hope of returning.

One element of our stubborn and steadfast ability to endure this wait is our realization of the preciousness of the ultimate prize. We are not simply a nation in exile waiting to return to its homeland. We realize that Yerushalayim is the most special real estate on the planet, the meeting point between heaven and earth. Our estimation of the significance of Yerushalayim knows no bounds. Therefore, even as tortuous as this wait can be, we realize that even it is not commensurate with the promised goal of our reunification with God in the rebuilt Yerushalayim.

This perspective will, God willing, also impact our attitude when we finally have our triumphant return to the completely rebuilt Yerushalayim. Chizkuni argues that even as the seven years were difficult for Yaakov, when he was finally married to Rachel and had a retrospective view of his life, the years seemed like an insignificant blip compared to the blissful years of the actual marriage. Thus, when reflecting back on his life, Yaakov viewed the seven years as “a few days.” 

Similarly, when we return to a rebuilt Yerushalayim and experience the sublime sanctity of a life in God’s presence, it will be so all-encompassing and defining that the “waiting” period will no longer loom large in our minds and hearts. 

May we merit this day soon!

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