By Rabbi Yehoshua Berman
Kesubos 57 – Time Flies…Or Does It?
One of the major differences between then and now is how the process of marriage would transpire. The Mishna tells us that, after a girl would become mekudeshes, there was a waiting period. And that interim time could be quite long. If neither side is pressing to move on, it seems, there is no particular limit to how long they can wait until they carry out nisuin. Even if one of the sides does make it clear that it is time to go forward, the other side can still hold off for twelve months.
That, says the Mishna, is the amount of time allotted to either the kallah or the chassan to prepare everything they need for marriage. From where, asks the Gemara, do we learn this? Says Rav Chisdah, from the pasuk that says, “And her brother and her mother said, let the maiden stay with us yamim or asor.”
The morning following his arrival at Besuel’s home, Eliezer made it clear that he wanted to immediately set out on his return trip to his master Avraham and his master’s son Yitzchak, with Rivkah in tow. Lavan and his mother were trying to push it off. Let her stay with us for a yamim or an asor, they said.
The question, of course, is what is a yamim and an asor. If, reasons the Gemara, yamim means two days, then their suggestion would make absolutely no sense. Is that the way one talks? Would someone say, “Give us two days; and if that’s no good, then give us ten”?! Therefore, it must be that yamim means one year, just as we see by batei arei chomah.
The halacha is that one who sells a house located inside of a walled city has one year to redeem it, after which time the property becomes chalut to the purchaser – under his permanent, irrevocable ownership. The way the Torah expresses one year in that context is with the word yamim.
What Lavan and his mother were saying, then, is, “Let her stay with us for one year, and if that’s asking too much, make it ten months – an asor.” And that, says Rav Chisdah, is where we learn that the amount of time given to a kallah to get herself ready once the chassan has pressed to go forward, is twelve months.
Apparently, the underlying given of the Gemara is that we can learn out such a thing even from people like Lavan and his mother, because they would not have asked for something that is completely out of the ordinary. If they requested it, there must have been a basis for their request. Perhaps another facet to Rav Chisdah’s reasoning is the very fact that Hashem put it into the Torah. It is obviously there for us to learn something therefrom, and this is what is most reasonable.
Now, here’s what you may call a klutz kashya, but I still think it deserves to be asked: why would the Torah employ the word yamim as the manner by which to convey a year’s time? Even if this form of expression would have been uniform, it still would have been a justifiable inquiry. That the word shana, though, is in fact an extremely ubiquitous word throughout the Torah – and is shorter than yamim by one letter – just serves to underscore and magnify the question.
As it turns out, we may be able to answer this question about the story of Yitzchak and Rivkah’s shidduch from the story of Yaakov and Rachel’s shidduch.
“V’Yaakov avad b’Rachel shevah shanim vayihiyu b’einav k’yamim achadim b’ahavaso osah.” Yaakov had to put in seven years of hard labor to merit Rachel’s hand in marriage. Because he loved her so much, though, to him it felt like the passing of but a few days. What we can perhaps derive from here, then, is that the word yamim conveys a dichotomy: on the one hand, it really is a significant period of time; but on the other hand, it feels like just a short interval.
Now that is an interesting point, because sometimes time feels as if it is standing still, and at other times it feels as if it is flying us by. And that is not only the case regarding situations that drastically differ from one another, but can be true even in respect to the very same circumstance.
Like the waiting/preparing time for a chasunah.
Sometimes a chassan or kallah (or their family members) can have a sense that the chasunah feels like it is so far off and it is taking forever to get there, despite it being only a month or two away; while at other times they may feel like the time is simply rushing by too quickly for them to even catch their breath.
It is hard to not sense this dichotomy in the conversation between Lavan and Eliezer. Lavan and his mother were saying, “Let her stay with us for another year. After all, that is the norm. And what’s the big deal anyway; you’ll see, the time will pass as if but a few days!” Eliezer, on the other hand, felt that such a waiting period would be simply unbearable. Much too long. “I must go with her immediately! This cannot wait!”
Of course, this does not necessarily have anything to do with Eliezer’s personality or manner of relating to waiting periods in general. He was mushbah. It is no trivial matter to be bound by a shvuah. How much more so when we consider to whom it is that he took that oath! At the same time, though, it is an inescapable fact that the Torah set down for us this dichotomy. Regarding Yitzchak and Rivkah’s shidduch, a waiting period was simply unbearable; it needed to be consummated post haste. Whereas in respect to Yaakov and Rachel, there was a very long waiting period – much longer than normal – and it was as if but a few days’ time.
So what does this mean for us? To be perfectly honest with you, I am not really sure. But one thing that seems to be pretty clear is that we can take a cue from here to expect fluctuations in life in terms of how we relate to given situations. The fact that sometimes we may feel a sense of inner tranquility and endless patience, and other times we feel on edge and overcome with a sense of urgently needing to “get to it already”, is perfectly normal. Whether one feels at ease or restless can be impacted by numerous different factors; sometimes independent of one another, and at other times working in confluence.
For example, if a kallah has gone two nights without getting adequate sleep, her sheitel macher cancelled for the third time, and the florist is simply not answering his phone – chances are that whatever equanimity she may have felt up until now will be shattered. A sense of jittery anxiety will likely be what she is going to experience under such circumstances. On the other hand, if things are more or less going according to schedule and progressing smoothly, she has strong and warm family support, and she is taking good care of herself – the fun and excitement of the whole process may be such that time for her is just flying.
The potential variables, and the permutations of those variables is practically infinite.
What this boils down to is that the only thing, really, that is up to the person is how he or she is going to deal with the situation in which he finds himself. What happens to a person, and what emotions or feelings well up inside of him in reaction thereto, is to a great extent out of a person’s hands. What is up to him is how is going to deal with it. What is he going to do to make the best of it, given the situation as it is.
In his situation, Yaakov avinu determined that the best course of action is patient forbearance. Eliezer, on the other hand, decided that he must be firm and insistent. Even Yaakov avinu did reach a point at which he felt “ad kan, v’su loh” – he gave Lavan a piece of his mind, and seven days later was given Rachel as his wife, albeit the second.
Of course, it is crucial to understand that Yaakov and Eliezer did not choose a particular mode of action because that is what their knee-jerk feelings compelled them to do. It is what they determined, based on their daas Torah, was the correct thing to do given the situation.
In life, we can and should expect a lot of fluctuation. Times when we feel like everything is rosy, exciting, and just wonderful. Tranquil ease and feeling like time is just flying. And times when we feel like the world has practically ground to a halt, or that time is passing too quickly to enable us to breathe. It’s all part of the saga we call life, and it is all mapped out and planned for us down to the last detail. Recognizing that this is to be expected and how it is meant to be, coupled with the acceptance that ultimately all that is in our hands is how we are going to deal with whatever situation it is in which we find ourselves, is a major part of how we can really make every one of our yamim count.
Rabbi Yehoshua Berman serves as the Rosh Kollel of Kollel Reshet HaDaf in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel. In addition to having authored Reflections on the Parsha, Rabbi Berman regularly delivers shiurim on Halacha and Hashkafa, writes comprehensive chazara questions (in Hebrew) for the advanced Daf Yomi learner, and weekly words of inspiration from the Parsha. Rabbi Berman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.