(Torah Portion Vayaitzai) Long But Short
After our forefather Yaacov received the patriarchal blessing from his father Yitzchok, his parents instructed him to leave Israel and travel to his mother Rivka’s family to find a wife.
Rivka, as a concerned mother, being well aware that her brother Lavan was a deceitful person, gave Yaacov instructions how to ward off the harmful influences of Lavan.
Rivka told him, “You will stay with him for ‘Yamim Achadim’ – singular days, or in other words, a few days.”
When Yaacov met Rachel he expressed to her father Lavan his interest in marrying Rachel, telling him that he would work for seven years for the right to marry Rachel.
Don’t you think seven years is a far cry from his mother’s instructions to stay with Lavan for “Yamim Achadim – singular days?”
What is even more perplexing is that our great teacher Rashi comments that these seven years that Yaacov pledged to work for Lavan was in keeping with his mother’s directives of staying with Lavan for “Yamim Achadim – a few days.”
Obviously there is a deeper meaning to the words, Yamim Achadim.
The great Vilna Goan in his inimitable brilliant fashion explains as follows: The Medrash relates that each of the six days of the week, which were all days of creation, can be paired to another day of the week, however, Shabbos stands by itself, and is therefore called Achad – singular and alone. The Talmud also tells us that the word Yamim is a term that is associated with a year.
Thus Yamim Achadim can be understood as, a year of singular days.
As we mentioned previously, Yaacov pledged to work seven years for Lavan.
Within a seven year period one encounters a year’s worth of Shabbos’.
What Rivka was hinting to Yaacov was that in order for him to ward off the negative influences of Lavan, he would have to utilize the Yamim Achadim – the year’s worth of Shabbos’. Rivka was teaching and conveying to Yaacov that the observance of the Shabbos would be his source of protection from the opposing forces of Lavan.
In fact, the first time the Torah alludes to a personal observance of Shabbos, is regarding Yaacov. This is understandable, since the tranquility and holiness of the Shabbos was the source of energy that helped him thwart off the negative impulses of the wicked Lavan.
This message that Rivka gave Yaacov, is timeless. Just as Yaacov drew strength from the holiness of the day of Shabbos allowing him to face the challenges that he was confronted with, so too, the sanctity that we acquire through observing Shabbos, helps us overcome the challenges, risks and threats that we face the entire week.
An additional point about these words, Yamim Achadim.
The Torah tells us that due to Yaakov’s love for Rachel, the seven years that he worked for the right to marry her, was to him as, “Yamim Achadim – a few days.” Although seven years is an awfully long period of time for one who is engaged awaiting marriage, the Torah attests that for Yaacov, it went by very fast.
The commentator Alshich points out that the Torah specifically uses the same term as Rivka did, Yamim Achadim, to describe how swiftly the seven years passed.
Perhaps, we can explain that Yaacov felt those seven years passing so quickly because of his mother’s directives that he remain focused upon the Yamim Achadim – the respite of Shabbos. Since Yaacov focused on the reprieve that the weekly Shabbos afforded him, the rest of the days of the week seemed to pass quickly.
One’s commitment to the observance of Shabbos fosters a sense of anticipation and longing through the week to welcome, embrace and experience the serenity, holiness, joy and peaceful spirit of Shabbos. With the entry of Shabbos the weekly grind and pressures fade away, and the experience of Shabbos refreshes and energizes us to take on what we will encounter in the coming week.
Wishing you a most uplifting, peaceful
and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks