וַיַּעֲבֹד יַעֲקֹב בְּרָחֵל, שֶׁבַע שָׁנִים; וַיִּהְיוּ בְעֵינָיו כְּיָמִים אֲחָדִים, בְּאַהֲבָתוֹ אֹתָהּ. (בְּרֵאשִׁית כט:כ)
And Jacob worked seven years for Rochel; and they seemed to him but a few days, for the love he had for her. (Bereishis 29:20)
The Torah tells us that the seven year wait until he could marry Rochel seemed as if they were a mere few days. Why was this so? The Torah explains right in the same pasuk: Because he loved her. This is a very perplexing statement! In “our” reality, if we were to love someone else and had to wait to marry them, it would seem like an eternity. In fact, waiting, even a short time for a marriage to someone you love, could seem painfully long. But here the Torah tells us the exact opposite: Because he loved her, the long wait seemed short.
I would like to explain this based on an idea that I once heard. There are some people who dream about getting all kinds of wonderful things, and there are others who figure out a plan how to attain those same goals. There is a great difference between the two. For those who are simply waiting for their dreams to come true, without taking any actions to make them come true, the wait might seem like an eternity. This could be compared to a person who is waiting to see a doctor, and sits in the waiting room doing nothing—the wait can seem painful and endless.
However, for the others who plan how to achieve their dream, they know that the more work they put in, the more likely it is that they will achieve their goal and the more meaningful their dream will be. For these people, the wait is a small investment for a great reward. This could be compared to the same person in the doctor’s waiting room, but instead of idling by the hours, he reads the various medical publications available in the seating area so that he has a better idea of his condition and the possible solutions. This not only makes the time feel valuable, but it also makes for a far more productive meeting with the doctor, to the point that one might even feel he wants more time.
Yaakov Avinu understood that he had a responsibility to marry Rochel to build klal Yisrael. He understood that the more prepared he was for this match-made-in-heaven, the more productive the marriage would be, the greater klal Yisrael would be. Therefore, to him, it seemed that it was only yomim achadim—just a few days.
I would like to add the reason that the Torah uses the words “yomim achadim” (“achadim” literally means “singular” days) rather than “yomim muatim”, a few days, is because the Torah is suggesting this idea: All the days were one: they were focused on one purpose, and this is the key for it to feel like a short time.
I have had situations in which people tell me how frustrated they are due to the large amount of time spent waiting for a shidduch, their first child or a job. I would like to offer an insight that may help: One could take those long, endless days of purposeless waiting, and turn them into useful short days of preparation for the ultimate challenge of what lies ahead.