Friday, December 05, 2008

Parashat Vayetze: Yaakov Stoned!

Our parsha would appear to have something of a fascination with stones. Yes! You heard correctly! Stones!

Look at the evidence:
1. Yaakov, in response to his night-time epiphany turns the stone from under his head into a monument.
2. Yaakov proceeds to Aram, where there is an entire drama with the stone that covers the well. Yaakov exhibits unusual strength as he removes the weighty stone with ease “like a cork from a bottle.” (Rashi).
3. And then, at the close of our parsha (31:45-6) as Yaakov and Lavan part ways, Yaakov establishes another monument (matzeva.)
4. Yaakov then instigates the collection of stones, more stones to create a pile so large that he and Lavan can eat upon this artificial “hill!” This mound becomes a monumental symbol, a sign of their eternal separation.

Later in the Yaakov story, we hear of more stones:

5. The stone that he establishes on his return to Beit El (35:14) which would appear to have some sacrificial relevance.
6. and, the Matzeva on Rachel’s grave (35:20) … again mentioned three times in a single passuk. (We have never seen a monument or column/pillar on a person’s burial-place up to this point in the Torah.)

Rabbi Dr. Josh Berman wrote an article many years ago connecting the significance of Jacob’s FOUR matzevot. He suggested that the original Matzeva replicates or animates the dream: The ladder mutzav artza – placed firmly in the ground – with its head “rosha” reaching heaven. Hence Yaakov sets up (VaYatzev) a vertical column and pours oil “Al Rosha” on its head.

The ingredients of the dream are:
1. Yaakov's covenantal status
2. God will protect him
3. God will return him to Eretz Yisrael.

1. At separation from Lavan, he sets up a Matzeva to recognise God's protection
2. At Beit El, he has been returned to the land.
3. Rachel's death marks the birth of his 12th son which he marks with a matzeva recognising God's granting him offspring and his covenantal status.

And even if this is correct (it is a pretty good theory!) it does not explain the other stones.

What is it with Yaakov and stones?

Ideas in the comments please?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

See Rashi in Parashas Balak. When the donkey crushes Bilaam's leg against the wall, Rashi says that the wall was made from stone. The natural question Rabbis ask....who cares what the.wall is made from, brick, stone, wood, chainlink...

The answer, is that Bilaam was a decendent of Lavan. The matzeva that Yaakov and his uncle build to signify their "truce" and that agreemend held in place until Bilaam broke it. The donkey was trying to remind Bilaam of that truce throigh stones.