Running throughout this parsha is the theme of stones all of which are associated with a supernatural experience which is unaccustomed to their docile inanimate nature. When Yaakov sleeps on the site of the Bais Hamikdash he gathers twelve stones placing them around his head for protection. Overnight, after his heavenly vision, the twelve stones were miraculously transformed into one stone. Yaakov then takes the stone and places it as a matzaivah for the future place of the Bais Hamikdash. The Sefas Emes writes that these twelve stones later on in time became the actual stones in the breastplate of the Kohen Gadol through which Hashem miraculously communicated to Am Yisrael.
Further on in the parsha, when Yaakov meets Rachel his future wife, he superhumanly singlehandedly rolls off the huge stone from the mouth of the well thereby allowing the shepherds gathered there to water their flocks. At the end of the parsha we encounter the bris that Yaakov made with Lavan by building another matziavh to serve as a treaty and witness between them. How did these stones continue with the theme that they displayed a supernatural quality? The Chazal say the Lavan was the same person as Bilam who attempted to curse Bnei Yisrael. As he approached Yisrael’s camp an angel stood in front of his and his mule blocking the path. The mule was endowed to see the vision and in fright it pushed against the wall crushing Billam’s foot. This wall was the original matzaivah that Lavan erected together with Yaakov establishing a peace treaty between them. The Torah says that the witnesses are the first to administer the punishment designated to the transgressor. This matzaivah which is called גלעד conveys that it is a pile of stones which serve as the witness to this treaty and therefore it was the first to punish Billam by crushing his foot for attempting to transgress the treaty. In other words the stones of this matzaivah were transformed into taking on a human role of being a real witness to the treaty that Lavan transgressed and was punished for.
In order to understand the above let us first discuss a fascinating fact about the stones that are in Eretz Yisrael. Chazal say (Kesuvos 112) that Rav Chaninah would weigh the stones of Eretz Yisrael. Tosfos explains that while journeying from Bavel to Eretz Yisrael he would weigh the stones to determine if he already entered its borders for their stones are much heavier than the ones from Chutz Laaretz. When he realized that he already entered its borders he would kiss them out of love for Eretz Yisrael. In fact Rav Yonasan Eibshutz learns that this is the very reason why the Torah describes Yaakov taking from the stones of the place. For he was travelling from Eretz Yisrael to Charan and then Hashem performed a miracle and brought Eretz Yisrael to him. Yaakov took the stones and weighed them to determine if he was already in Eretz Yisrael (Bereishis 28,11). What is it about these stones of Eretz Yisrael that they possess more density and weight that their counterparts of equal size and volume in Chutz Laaretz?
We can simply answer that since the place of the Beis Hamikdash was the source from where all matter was created, the closer proximity one is to the Bais Hamikdash the degree of its concentration and density is accentuated. However, there is a deeper explanation to this phenomenon. Stones in Eretz Yisrael are symbolic of the unique deep and intimate relationship that Am Yisrael possesses with Hashem. The word of אבן is a combination of two words אב בן (Rashi Bereishis 49,24). Both words share the letter beis. After all, a son is an extension of his father. Am Yisrael’s relationship with Hashem is that of a father son relationship in contrast to a king and servant relationship. To this the passuk testifies when it says בנים אתם לה’ אלקיכם. However, in Eretz Yisrael upon which the passuk says עיני ה’ אלקיך בה מראשית השנה that the eyes of Hashem are upon it with a special hashgacha, the bond of father and son is more apparent and experienced. This is the reason why the stones of Eretz Yisrael are Heavy Weights for they portray the intensity of the Av Ben relationship that Yisrael has with Hashem. The pinnacle display of this relationship was the Bais Hamikdash in Yerushalyim. That is why the Bais Hamikdash was constructed from stoneאבן in contrast to the Mishkan which was built with wood and other materials.
Of all the four categories of creation, inanimate, vegetative, animal, human, the level of inanimate is the lowest and the most lifeless compared to the other three. Yet the inanimate stones of Eretz Yisrael especially from the site of the future Bais Hamikdash demonstrated a higher character of existence. The twelve stones of Yaakov miraculously united into one. These stones were destined to become part of the Choshen worn by the Kohen Gadol and used to convey the word of Hashem by the letters engraved on them lighting up. Even the gold in the Bais Hamikdash reached level two of vegetation. The Bais Hamikdash was called בית יער הלבנון “house of the forest” for the golden fruit trees in the Bais Hamikdash grew golden fruit from which the Kohanim would financially support themselves (Yuma 39b). All of this demonstrates the intimacy of a father son relationship between Hashem and Am Yisrael even on the lowest level of the inanimate existence. Yaakov by sleeping with these stones desired to instill in the future 12 Shevatim this love for Eretz Yisrael and the realization that their relationship with Hashem is an intense inseparable bond of אב בן. Hashem manifested his love relationship with us even on the lowest level of creation to demonstrate that even when Yisrael hits “Rock Bottom” and finds himself overpowered by the Yetzer Harah which is compared to a stone (Succah 52b), nevertheless this essential relationship remains intact. As for the other two extensions of the theme of stones in this parsha, they too are associated with the Bais Hamikdash the source of all stones on earth. As the Medrash comments on Yaakov’s superhuman feat of removing the stone from on top of the well
והנה באר בשדה זו ציון והנה שלשה עדרי צאן אלו שלשה רגלים כי מן הבאר ההיא ישקו שמשם היו שואבים רוח הקודש והאבן גדולה זו שמחת בית השואבה א”ר הושעיא למה היו קוראים אותו בית השואבה שמשם היו שואבים רוח הקודש ונאספו שמה כל העדרים באים מלבוא חמת ועד נחל מצרים וגללו את האבן וגו’ שמשם היו שואבים רוח הקודש והשיבו את האבן מונח לרגל הבא ד”א וירא והנה באר בשדה זו ציון והנה שלשה עדרי צאן אלו שלשה בתי דינים דתנן שלשה בתי דינים היו שם אחד בהר הבית ואחד בפתח העזרה ואחד בלשכת הגזית כי מן הבאר ההיא וגו’ שמשם היו שומעין את הדין והאבן גדולה זה ב”ד הגדול שבלשכת הגזית ונאספו שמה כל העדרים אלו בתי דינין שבא”י וגללו את האבן שמשם היו שומעין את הדין והשיבו את האבן שהיו נושאים ונותנין בדין עד שמעמידין אותו על בוריו ד”א והנה שלשה עדרי צאן וירא והנה באר זו ציון והנה שם שלשה עדרי צאן אלו שלשה מלכיות ראשונות כי מן הבאר ההיא ישקו העדרים שהעשירו מן ההקדשות הצפונות בלשכות והאבן גדולה על פי הבאר זו זכות אבות ונאספו שמה כל העדרים זו מלכות רומי שהיא מכתבת טירוניא מכל אומות העולם וגללו את האבן שהעשירו מן ההקדשות הצפונות בלשכות והשיבו את האבן על פי הבאר למקומה לעתיד לבא זכות אבות עומדת ד”א והנה באר בשדה זו סנהדרין והנה שם שלשה עדרי צאן אלו שלשה שורות של תלמידי חכמים שהם יושבים לפניהם כי מן הבאר ההיא ישקו העדרים שמשם היו שומעין את ההלכה והאבן גדולה ע”פ הבאר זה מופלא שבבית דין שהוא מסרס את ההלכה ונאספו שמה כל העדרים אלו תלמידי חכמים שבארץ ישראל וגללו את האבן שמשם היו שומעין את ההלכה והשיבו את האבן על פי הבאר שהיו נושאים ונותנים בהלכה עד שמעמידים אותה על בוריה
The third incident of the pile of stones that crushed Billam’s foot and the beating of his mule three times was symbolic of the Shelosh Regalim that Yidden went up to the Bais Hamikdash and which Billam attempted to thwart (Rashi, Bamidbar 22,28). Here again this pile of stones associate with the Bais Hamikdash, stones that possess and display the characteristic of supernatural forces.
The Otzar Peleos Hatorah brings a strange story about this Matzaiva Stone erected by Yaakov. Tosofos on the Torah explains that when they erected this stone matziavah to be part of the Bais Hamikdash this inanimate object displayed a temperament and kept pushing itself off the row. This strange behavior continued until Shlomo Hamalech came over himself and realized the motivation behind this conduct. This matzaivah stone knew that the Bais Hamikdash will eventually be destroyed and along with it will be this matzaivah. This is the meaning of the passuk אבן מאסו הבונים that this stone of matzaivh was despised by those builders of the Bais Hamikdash for it literally refused to be a part of their building plan. Shlomo Hamalech swore to the Matzaivah stone that it will never be destroyed so he ordered that the stone should be placed in the structure of the Kosel Maaravi which was the only wall that was not destroyed or removed from its place אבן מאסו הבונים היתה לראש פינה it became to Even Pinah Stone of the Kosel Maaravi.
Did you hear correctly this amazing Chazal you just read? The Matzaiva Stone of Yaakov Avinu is somewhere part of the Kosel Maaravi structure. It is the original stone which contains twelve stones which miraculously bonded together. No wonder why at the Kosel Maaravi all Yidden naturally daven, sing and dance together as one, irreverent of their religious affiliation. It is here by the Kosel that one can feel that fatherly love that Hashem has with his children from all over the world. So what if we don’t know which stone is the real Matzaivah Stone. It’s really not about you touching it as much as it is about it touching you.
Gut Shabbos Rav Brazil