From HaGaon Rav Zevadia HaCohen Shlit”a, The Head of the Batei Din in Tel Aviv
(translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK)
[Loving Me, Loving You! Two Types of Love]
We read in the Parasha Yaakov’s exit from Be’er Sheva to travel to Charan and his labour by Lavan for 20 years, 7 years for Leah, 7 for Rachel and 6 further years. During that time he also married Zilpa and Bilha and they bore 11 children.
We read that “Yaakov worked seven years for Rachel. But he loved her so much, it seemed like no more than a few days” (Bereishit 29:20).
It appears rather surprising, since ordinarily if a person loves, yearns and desires something, then the greater the yearning the greater the time seems to draw out, thereby making it less bearable, and a few moments seem like eternity.
We may illustrate this with an analogy. A chatan is scheduled to marry in a week and is very much looking forwards, his experience is certainly that the time is passing slowly. If so, why with Yaakov Avinu who loved Rachel so much, does it say, “it seemed like no more than a few days”, why did Yaakov experience that seven years seemed like a few days, on the contrary, the reality dictates the reverse. And it should have written, “they seemed like many years”, way more than just seven years?
In order to fathom this, we must introduce the following important profound idea.
There are two types of loving others. There is loving another “physically”. Here the objective of the lover is to advance his personal interests. He loves the other person, when in reality he loves himself and therefore in practice he uses the love of the other to materialise his personal gaol.
This is analogous to the well-known principle, of a person who stays at a hotel and is asked what he loves to eat. He answers that he loves to eat fish. Is his intention that he loves the fish or that he loves himself? For sure he loves himself, since if he really loved the fish, he would set them free and not cause their death thereby turning them into a tasty dish for himself.
In contradistinction, there is the love of another which is deemed “spiritual”. This means that the love of the other, is only, or at least mainly, for the benefit of the recipient, without any personal gain of the giver, since the goal is to just benefit the recipient.
The contrast between one who loves “physically” and one who loves “spiritually” is precisely the point we are deliberating here, feeling the protracted time, how much longer is left to receive something.
A person who loves something from the perspective of “physical love”, his experience, from the perspective of passing time until he receives something, will be feeling a longer period of time than it truly is, because he has laced in his personal goal, which he is anticipating. His personal yearning causes him to feel that a greater time is passing.
However, where it is “spiritual love”, there is no personal interest, the entire goal is to benefit the other. Indeed, on the contrary, the feeling of time passing seems to go quicker.
Therefore, we may now understand that which is related about Yaakov, “But he loved her so much, it seemed like no more than a few days”, Yaakov Avinu loved Rachel from a spiritual perspective, with no vested interest, therefore the time whizzed by, it felt just like “a few days”, since there was literally no personal gain laced in.
This is carefully reflected in the passuk, “But he loved ‘her’ so much, it seemed like no more than a few days”, “her” and not himself in anyway whatsoever.