Eventually, We Get There!
By Rabbi Label Lam
Maybe some readers are too young to remember the famous count-downs
associated with rocket-ship launchings, “10, 9, 8, 7 etc. We have lift-
off!” I’m not! Also, having dealt with prisons over the years I have
heard many more describe the time they have left in jail with greater
enthusiasm and hope than when recalling the time they have spent, “Only
four more years!”
In that context we can echo and amplify a classic question about Sefira-
this 49 day counting period between Pesach and Shevuos. Since we tend to
count time remaining till a momentous occasion, why do we number the days
and weeks that have passed leading up to that that moment when we reach
again and when we re-experience the giving of Torah?
We find a curious statement with regard to Yaakov. He himself set the
price of seven years to work for the hand in marriage to Rachel. When the
time arrived he approached his future father-in-law Lavan and demanded his
daughter, and then the Torah records oddly, “It was like a few days in his
eyes due to his great love for her.” (Breishis 29:20) This is no Hallmark
Card aphorism. The Torah itself testifies how he experienced the passage
of those seven years. It was like a few days, and why? Because he loved
her so much! Do you hear the problem? If he loved her so much, a week
would seem like a year and a year should be like a century and seven years
a millennium. How could he have felt like it flew so fast?
The way we experience time, fast or slow, is a function of whether we are
passive or active. If one is waiting for the proverbial pot of water to
boil then it may seem to take forever. If one is waiting for the toast to
pop, the train to arrive, Mr. or Mrs. Right to enter one’s life, or even
for Moshiach to come, then the passage of time, no matter how long or
short may feel like a death sentence.
However, if one is readying himself to take law boards to capitalize on
three years invested in intensive study, then six months of review can go
awfully fast. If in one month a small percentage of the material is
covered, then one might wish there would be a way to slow the pace of the
Similarly, it is so with an athlete who is preparing for the Olympics and
needs to be the fastest human on earth in four short years. Time would be
chasing him more than anything or anyone else. Four years can go quickly
when there is a real and urgent goal. About this idea, some have explained
the Mishne in Pirke Avos, “The Day is short, the work is much…” When is
the day short? When the work is much!
Now, maybe we can understand that Yaakov had such a profound appreciation
for his bride to be Rachel that she deserved no less than the best He took
those seven years as a critical period to iron out and perfect whatever
character flaws he might possess so they would not follow him into
marriage. Therefore, we too are well advised to prepare for the great
dates of life. Rather to be “doers” than “waiters”, to prepare for
marriage, and be a year readier rather than a year older and more
frustrated, to actively clean house for the advent of Moshiach etc.
So it is, when it comes to getting ready for reliving the giving of the
Torah, we are counting up to the event. “Five weeks and so many days
passed! What have I accomplished with the time I have been granted?” Such
a question inspires readiness, and helps create a richer experience when
eventually, we get there!
Text Copyright © 2005 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.