The Torah in Parashat Vayetze tells of Yaakov’s agreement with Lavan whereby he would work as Lavan’s shepherd for seven years, after which he would marry Rachel, Lavan’s younger daughter. We read that because of Yaakov’s special love for Rachel, these seven years were in Yaakov’s eyes “ke-yamim achadim” (29:20), which is generally translated as “like several days.”
Many commentators raised the obvious question as to the logic of this verse. Seemingly, if Yaakov loved Rachel and very much wished to marry her, then the waiting period should have felt long and drawn-out, and not like a small amount of time as the verse suggests.
An especially creative interpretation of this verse was proposed by Rav Zev Wolf Tannenbaum (the Verpeleter Rav) in his Rechovot Ha-nahar. He notes the verse in Sefer Bamidbar (28:4) which formulates the command of the daily tamid sacrifice with the phrase “ha-keves echad” (literally, “the one sheep”). The Gemara (Megilla 28a) understands the word “echad” in this verse to mean “meyuchad be-edro” – “singular in his flock” – that the sheep selected for the tamid must be an animal of particularly high quality. Accordingly, the word “echad” can be used in reference to a special quality, to something that is special and unique.
On this basis, Rav Tannenbaum suggests a novel reading of the phrase “yamim achadim” here in Parashat Vayetze. Yaakov regarded this seven-year period as a special and significant time. Out of his love for Rachel, and his strong desire to marry her, he viewed the seven years of work as “yamim achadim” – a very important and meaningful time. As these were the years that led him to the goal he desired, he considered them precious and valuable.
The message that emerges from this creative insight is that the process leading to a final goal is inherently significant. Too often, in our impatience, we regard the waiting period as wasted time, an unwanted necessity, and this leads to aggravation and frustration. We must remember that whenever we work towards any goal, the interim period is “yamim achadim” – an important and significant block of time that should be cherished and regarded as something valuable, rather than causing us resentment and angst.