This week’s Parsha, Vayetzei, relates the beginning of the relationship between Yakov and Rachel. When they first meet (29:11), Yakov cries, Rashi explaining that it’s because he didn’t have jewelry to give her (among other reasons). Why did he cry over that? Maybe he could have been upset, but sad enough that he cried? Then, after Yakov offers to work for Lavan for seven years in exchange for Rachel (although the custom was for the father to pay the son-in-law). Why would he do that? Also, the Passuk says that those seven years were like a few days to him (29:20). If he wanted to marry Rachel, wouldn’t waiting have felt like much longer than seven years?
Rabbi Zweig answers these questions beautifully. He explains that the foundation for any relationship, and especially marriage, is respect, making them feel good about themselves. But how does one accomplish this? By buying the person items? Giving someone something they need only diminishes their self-respect (however minimally) because they are now indebted to you. No, the only items you can give a woman that totally for her benefit is jewelry. Yakov cried because he didn’t have the jewelry to give her, and wanted to convey that to Rachel so badly that he was willing, and indeed insisted, on working for seven years to “earn” Rachel’s hand in marriage. Each day of those seven years made Rachel feel so wanted and honored that he was willing to do that for her, that the years felt like days. With this kind of respect and attitude, it’s no wonder that he was the most successful of our forefathers, and hopefully a role model for us dealing with our spouses, parents and even children with the respect they deserve.