Vayeitzei - True Joy
In this week's parsha, we find a pasuk which is difficult to understand on a superficial level. The pasuk tells us that when Ya'akov Avinu went to the house of Lavan, he wished to take Rachel as his wife. The Torah relates how the shidduch was made, and how Ya’akov Avinu agreed to work for Lavan for seven years in order to obtain Rachel as his wife. The difficulty is that the pasuk says that these seven years felt like a mere few days in the eyes of Ya'akov Avinu. I always had a problem with this. When a person wants something and is waiting for it, the time spent waiting usually feels longer than normal, not shorter! L'mashal, if a person is sitting through a lecture and he can't wait until it ends to run out to go to the bathroom, the lecture feels interminable! So, what's pshat that by Ya'akov Avinu the time felt shorter?
The Chizkuni gives one answer which is a chiddush in how to learn the pasuk. He says that in reality, it did feel like forever to Ya'akov Avinu. What the pasuk means is that Ya'akov Avinu was able to look at it after the fact in a positive light and say, "Wow, that felt like fifty years, but it was only really a few days!" That is, even though it really did feel like a very long time, he was able to revel at the fact that the perceived long time was fit into such a short time.
I would like to offer a different answer, perhaps a hargasha. Really, the pasuk is meant to be taken literally. It did only feel like a few days in the eyes of Ya'akov. Then what's pshat, for according to the human intellect, something like this usually feels much longer? I think the answer lies in a Sfas Emes on this week's parsha.
The Sfas Emes says that as we know, Ya'akov Avinu was mesaken (instituted) Ma'ariv. Why? Says the Sfas Emes, that the yesod of Ma'ariv is to bring Hashem's light into the darkness. It’s essentially a chiddush. Why would we think that a person could always have a connection to Hashem, even if he's involved himself in the lowly darkness this world has to offer? That was the Ma'ariv that Ya'akov Avinu was mechadesh. That even amongst the darkest night, there’s always an availability for a connection to Hashem. Ya'akov was an embodiment of this yesod. He lived a life of strife and pain! Yet nevertheless, within that dark night, there was always light.
That's the pshat behind Ya'akov being mesaken Ma'ariv, and I think that’s also the pshat in the pasuk. The pasuk is teaching us a chiddush! In reality, it should've felt like a long time to Ya'akov Avinu! All he wanted to do was to marry Rachel, not to work for his father-in-law who epitomized everything Ya'akov opposed! Yet even so, for a person who always finds that connection to Hashem, for someone who's always connected to a higher level of existence, for that person, he'll always have simcha. And because of that simcha, even a span of seven years will only feel like a few days.
This yesod is very nogeiah to all of us, each on our own level. Everyone experiences darkness in their life. It may be with their frumkeit, their jobs, family, etc... And within that darkness, it may sometimes seem as if there's no end! Yet it’s specifically while experiencing that darkness that a person can come to a deep sense of simcha. For when a person is in pain, he calls out to Hashem, he connects to Hashem, and from that connection comes fulfillment and happiness. With that, one can overcome his obstacles and live a happy life, even amidst the darkness which one encounters.