I'm having a bit of trouble understanding Or Hachaim's explanation on Breishit 29:18. Usually Jewish slaves work for only 6 years. Yet, Ya'akov offers to work for Lavan for 7 years as payment for marrying Rachel. Ohr Hachaim says that there is a "secret" behind the number 7. Despite that, esp. if Ya'akov had already suspected that Lavan was not trustworthy, why did he offer his work for so many years? (I may be missing something in Ohr Hachaim's explanation that would answer this.)

  • @chachamNisan Take it up with the Ohr HaChaim, not the OP. Only for the last six years was he a Po’el, anyway. The Ohr HaChaim seems to base this on the passuk using the term עבד rather than פעל or even שכר.
    – DonielF
    Nov 16, 2018 at 15:21

3 Answers 3


“…and the (seven years) seemed to him only a few days, because of the love he had for her.” Genesis 29:20

Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote:

Should not the reverse be true, i.e. that a day should seem to Jacob like years because of his love for Rachel?

The wording of this passage is meant to convey to us the profound spiritual nature of the love that bound Jacob and Rachel to one another. In a love based on physical desire, the lovers want the time of separation to pass quickly so that each day they are apart seems to them like a year.

But in a spiritual love, devoid of self-seeking desire, such as that of Jacob and Rachel, the lovers do not care whether the object of their affection is near or far away. The spiritual love between Jacob and Rachel had already found fulfillment, and therefore, seven years seemed to Jacob only a few days.

Before we go into the main topic i.e

why Ya'akov enslaved himself for so long?

We need to understand more about his father-in-law "LABAN"

Laban is identified by the Rabbis with Beor, Balaam's father, and with Chushan-rishathaim (Judges iii. 8), the last name being interpreted as "perpetrator of two evils" (Sanh. 105a; comp. Targ. pseudo-Jonathan to Num. xxii. 5).

R. Joshua b. Levi, however, identifies Laban with Kemuel (Gen. xxii. 21), the latter name being interpreted as, "who stood up against God's people"

Laban is called also "the master of impostors" (ib. lxxv. 6). When he saw the bracelets on Rebekah's arms (Gen. xxiv. 30) he determined to kill Eliezer; but the latter, divining his intention, pronounced the Sacred Name, by which he caused camels to remain suspended in the air above the well. This and Eliezer's resemblance to Abraham made Laban believe that Eliezer was Abraham. Laban therefore invited him to enter the house (Midr. Abkir, in Yalḳ., Gen. 109; comp. Midr. Hagadah on Gen. xxiv. 23).

When Jacob had completed his seven years of service, Laban assembled his countrymen and consulted them as to the best means to retain him; "for," said he, "ye know that formerly we had a scarcity of water, and it is only through this righteous man that we are now blessed with an abundance of it." His countrymen advised him to substitute Leah for Rachel (Targ. pseudo-Jonathan and Yerushalmi to Gen. xxix. 22; Gen. R. lxx. 17).

Shows how Laban tricked Jacob into slavery and Jacob finding his way out.

  • Welcome to MY and thank you for your answer! Don't forget to cite your sources if you use other authors' work! Nov 16, 2018 at 10:46
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    – mbloch
    Nov 16, 2018 at 11:10

1.Answer by rabeinu Bachya. Rachel was 5 years old that time and could not become a mother if his children, so Yaakov offered Lavan 7 years of labor till she becomes 12. 2.Answer by Pardes Yosef. Rivka told Yaakov to stay in Haran "yamim ahadim". YAMIM is 1 year (based on parasha BEHAR "yamim tehe geulato") and AHADIM are SHABATOT (based on Midrash where Shabbat is called "yahid"), so basically Rivka told Yaakov to stay with Lavan 1 year of Shabbatot, i.e. 52 into 7 = 364 shabbatot and this is 7 years!


First, is your question about 7 years as opposed to 6 or in general, why so many years? Because I asked something similar - why not use his father's wealth to get away from the work altogether and nobody responded yet.

I don't know a clear answer, but I can only hint you, based on Baash"t and Ariz"l explanations on Yaakov's mission at Lavan. If you remember, he stole Eisov's Brochos, and therefore, Eisov's mission in this world. His original mission was a Torah learner (Aseh Tov) but now he needed to be Ish Tzayd, to complete Eisov's mission of Sur meRah. This is the reason he went away to Lavan to Huzt laHaretz, the land of idolatry, instead of his father's bringing Rochel home to the Holy Land.

This is the reason he spent those long years at Lavan's residence Mamash as Lavan insisted, constantly fighting Lavan (Sur meRah) and going through all those tests and humiliations etc, instead of grabbing the grown-up daughters and running away back home.

I am sorry I'm really bad with sources, I simply don't remember who said that, and don't have time to search it up (source needed) but Eisov was one to father and establish the 12 Tribes, but now Yaakov took it all. Isn't it strange he realized he should have children at 84?

So the answer (according to Drush) is that that was his new mission he took from Eisov to cope with Lavan's evil 3 times 7 years, you probably know what those numbers stand for.

Sorry again for not bringing sources.

  • 1
    I understand a busy schedule. When you can, please provide some sources. it's difficult to understand the various allusions you mention in this answer without seeing at least one source / link to the original.
    – DanF
    Nov 29, 2017 at 14:43
  • What exactly do you want to know?
    – Al Berko
    Nov 29, 2017 at 16:17
  • Not sure, yet, actually. I have to re-read your answer! Counter-point to your stating " why not use his father's wealth to get away from the work altogether" - there'sa Midrash I thin cited by Rash"i that says that Elifaz, Esav's grandson fought with Ya'akov, and Ya'akov gave him all his wealth. It's a bit unclear of the timing of this event. However, see a related Rash"i on when Lavan first meets Ya'akov and hugs and kisses him to see if he has a diamond hidden in his mouth. Pparently, he didn't have anything at all, which is why he had to work. It's strange that at first, he works for free.
    – DanF
    Nov 29, 2017 at 16:23
  • I have already addressed this Midrash. It does not help. Say Bill Gate's authentic son comes to you and says he was robbed, he asks you for a favor and offers to pay with his manual labor. Will you make him work or serve him for free and charge his father? See, it does not make sense at all. BTW, keep in mind they were cousins! Yitzhok was Lavan's in-law, tHey knew of each other from birth, and they all knew Yitzhok was extremely wealthy.
    – Al Berko
    Nov 29, 2017 at 16:50
  • @רבותמחשבות Can you ask each question separately as a question and I'll do my best to answer it. Based on my knowledge and study, I am trying to present a more holistic picture of the Torah events finding underlying reasons , not simple excuses (tirutzim).
    – Al Berko
    Dec 28, 2017 at 14:56

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