Friday, November 8, 2013

A Fourteen Year Engagement

Yaakov waited seven years to marry Rachel. And then another seven years. That's fourteen years. 
How much research did he need to do already?
And then,  Rashi goes and says that all those fourteen years were like ¨yamim achadim¨, just a few days.
One second. If you were waiting desperately to marry the love of your life, marking off each day in your custom made seven year calendar with a glow-in-the-dark marker so you can count them while lying sleeplessly in bed at night, would it really feel like "just a few days"? Maybe just a few centuries?
 How could it be possible that all those years felt to Yaakov like yamim achadim?
There were two different parts of the process:
1. Seven years of waiting.
2. Seven years of working.
The waiting part, no doubt was extremely difficult. The working part was practically effortless since the payment was so well worth it.
If you have the means to give someone $10 million, then $1 million seems like nothing.
To Yaakov, Rachel was worth so much that he'd do anything to get her.
In Eishes Chayil, Shlomo Hamelech describes the virtuous woman. One aspect of her idealism is stated in the fourth possuk: Darsha tzemer ufishtim, vataas b´cheifetz kapeha. Focusing on the second half of the verse, which is the part that's appropriate for our discussion, it translates, ¨she works willingly with her hands¨.
As long as her work gets done, who really cares whether it's done willingly or not?
Didn't your mother ever tell you "Do it with a smile, or don't do it at all!?¨
Technically, she does have an option. She can do her work unwillingly. Most of us get through the day doing mundane tasks without much enthusiasm. But, we do what's required in fear of the consequence of not doing it.
What happens if my always perfect, spotless, OCD neighbor comes over and sees I have Mount Everest growing out of my fleishig sink? And when she sees yesterday´s peanut butter sandwich face down on the floor...under her shoe? And suddenly, the stench of a soiled diaper wafting through the air nearly knocks her down onto the pile of laundry still waiting to be folded... How would this make me feel (theoretically, of course)? 
And if an employee has a certain quota to fill by 5:00, regardless of his rapport with his boss, and whether or not he likes his work, if he wants to keep his job (and consequentially, his wife) he better finish that pile.
So, most of the time, we tend to our demanding, mundane activities without much desire or enthusiasm, in order to avoid facing the consequences of not doing them.
The Gra speaks about the unhappiness of a person who doesn´t enjoy the process leading to his goal. 
He´s right.
A few years ago, I decided to pursue my long awaited dream of playing the piano. So, while very busy with my family, home, work, and countless other projects, I added piano lessons to my agenda. My only available time slot to practice, tho, was at 2 am, after a long, hard day. I dreaded those practices. Sometimes I would even clean the fridge rather than practice.
It was such torture. I just wanted to be Beethoven already. I dreamed of my long, silky fingers flying effortlessly along the majors and minors, producing gorgeous, melodious compositions. But, I didn´t wanna practice. I despised it. 
So....I quit.
In order to reach a goal, a process is required. If it's done with enthusiasm and enjoyment, life is more enjoyable for the player, as well as for all the other participants that surround him.
I have learned an important lesson in life:
If you focus on the effort, you will hardly notice the pleasure, but if you focus on the pleasure you will hardly notice the effort.
Yaakov could've dreaded those years. He could've been miserable. He could´ve been a total downer, causing his misery to influence anyone in his vicinity. But, he did not care for the impending consequences he knew would follow, so he decided to channel his concentration. He was so full of enthusiasm and enjoyment during the 'waiting process' that the years literally felt like very few.
Enjoying the process leading to the goal is an important part of fully achieving that goal.
"The highest reward for toil is not what you get for it, but what you become from it".
Have a beautiful shabbos,