by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek
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Parashas Vayeitzei(66)In last week's sedra, Rebecca' sends her son Jacob away "for a few days" to her brother, Lavan's home, For she feared Esau's, threat to kill him. Jacob works for his uncle Lavan and marries Rachel & Leah and raises a family of 11 boys and a daughter, until he decides to return home. (Note: Rebecca never did call for him. In fact when Jacob returned she was no longer alive.)
Jacob makes a "deal" in order to obtain Lavan's permission to marry his younger daughter, Rachel.
"Jacob loved Rachel and he said "I will work for you seven years for Rachel, your younger daughter."
I will work for you seven years: Rashi: These are the "few days" that his mother said to him, " and you will stay with him a few days" (27:44). You can know that this is so since it says ( in verse 20) "And they (i.e. the seven years of work) were in his (Jacob's) eyes as but a few days."
What would you ask on Rashi's comment?
A Question: Why does Rashi need to refer to the "few days" that Rebecca said to Jacob ? What connection is there to our verse, if any? And how can one say that seven years = a few years ?!
Can you think of an answer?
WHAT'S BOTHERING RASHI?
An Answer: It seems Rashi is bothered by the fact that Jacob offered to work seven years away from home when his mother had said she'll send for him to return in a few days - when Esau's anger subsides. Now even it would take a year or two for Esau's temper to calm down - that is still not seven years ! So how could Jacob lock himself into a contract that, if his mother sent for him to come home, he'd have to refuse?
How does Rashi's comment answer this problem?
An Answer: Rashi tells us that, in Jacob's way of seeing things "seven years" is just like a few days. How can that be?
"Seven years" is "seven years" and not a "few days"?
But if we think about this we can understand. Let's ask a general question. Is "Seven Years" a long time?
What do you say?
A DEEPER LOOK
An Answer: If I said to a boy who had just graduated high school with a major in physics, "In seven years you will win the Noble Prize in physics." Is that a long time or a short time?
Or if I said to a student that it would take him seven years to learn an ordinary mishneh. Is that long or short time?
Right! Everything is relative.
For Jacob seven years was a short time, as Rashi cites the verse "They were in his eyes as a few days." That's the way he saw it, because he loved Rachel so much, seven years was as nothing.
ANOTHER QUESTION ANSWERED
Rashi's comment allows us to understand a puzzling verse that has confounded many commentators.
It says "Jacob worked for Rachel for seven years but they were in his eyes as a few days because of his love for her."
All are astounded by the logic of this verse. Because he loved her, seven years seemed like a few days? I would think just the opposite - because he loved her he should have felt it an eternity, not certainly a few days, to wait so long for his beloved?
But Rashi's comment clues us in to the explanation. It was Jacob, not Lavan, who offered the seven years work. Granted, Lavan jumped at the offer, but it was Jacob's idea. If we try to understand Jacob's psychological dilemma, we can see where he's "coming from." He was bidding for Rachel whom he loved. He had conflicting interests. He wanted to bid high enough, to offer Lavan a deal he wouldn't refuse. On the other hand, he was waiting for his mother to call him back home. He couldn't offer an "eternity"! even if he loved Rachel very much, because he had to be free to return home whenever those "few days" arrived.
He chose seven years as a low offer - in case his mother would send for him. When Lavan grabbed Jacob's "low bid," Jacob thought he was really lucky, getting such a wonderful wife for a pittance! Of course his loved blinded him to the objective reality of seven years really being quite a long time - but for Jacob it wasn't at all. Everything is relative! Even with relatives!!
"What's Bothering Rashi?" is produced by the Institute for the Study of Rashi and Early Commentaries. The five volume set of "What's Bothering Rashi?" is available at Judaica bookstores.
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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