Rock N' Roll

Rabbi Wagensberg
Parshas Vayeitzei
Rock and Roll


A fugitive from his own brother. He spent fourteen years in his secret hideout absorbing the holy words of Torah to fortify himself for his arduous journey that lay ahead of him. Each day he wondered if he would be discovered. Then, the moment came. An opening. A chance for him to make his move.

Under the cover of darkness, Ya'akov fled. There was no time to look back. He had to keep going. There was too much at stake.

Eventually, exhausted from running, he desperately needed some rest. Divinely orchestrated, he spent the night in the holiest place on the planet. What would be if wild animals attacked him during his slumber?

With no survival training, he grabbed some stones and arranged them to form a sort of cape around his head.

Suddenly, the strangest thing happened. Were those voices that he was hearing? He quickly swung around, but there was nobody there. He closed his eyes, as if in some sort of deep meditation, trying to tap in to a different frequency. Yes, the stones were talking. One of them said, "I want the righteous Ya'akov to rest his head on me." Then, another stone spoke and made the same request. All the stones began bickering. Each one vying for the privilege. Unexpectedly, a miracle occurred and all the stones were fused into one (Rashi, Gn. 28:11, citing Chulin, chap. 7, "Gid Hanasheh", pg. 91b, Rebbi Yitzchak; Bereishis Rabba, 68:11, Reb Levi and Reb Elazar in the name of Rebbi Yosi bar Zimrah).

In the morning, Ya'akov took the stone that he had just slept on and made it into a pillar, poured oil over it, and mentioned this stone in his prayer to God for success (Gn. 28:18-22).

Such a fuss was made over this stone that it begs us to ask, "What was so special about it?" Moreover, how were the stones around his head supposed to protect the rest of his body from wild beasts? Additionally, why would God even perform such a miracle by making many stones become one? Also, what was the point behind pouring oil on the stone?

The Midrash (Bereishis Rabba, 68:11, Rebbi Yehudah) reveals to us that Ya'akov took specifically twelve stones from the altar that Avraham built to bring Yitzchak as an offering to God (Pirkei d'Rebbi Eliezer, chap. 35; Midrash Socher Tov, 91). The twelve stones represented the twelve tribes. By combining them together, Hashem hinted to Ya'akov that he was going to be the father of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, one nation under God.

But, what was all the fighting about between the stones? The Shvilei Pinchas explains that at that time, the souls of the twelve tribes were trapped in the town of Lavan. This is because Lavan had four daughters, Rochel, Leah, Bilha, and Zilpa (See Pirkei d'Rebbi Eliezer chap. 36). They were the mothers of the twelve tribes. But, before the tribes were born, their souls were held in captivity by Lavan.

Lavan wanted to destroy the Jewish people completely (Passover Haggadah; Rashi Dt. 26:5). Who knows what Lavan could do to them if they remained his prisoners. However, if Ya'akov would rest his head on the twelve stones, which represented the twelve tribes, he would be able to concentrate on them with his holy thoughts. This would enable him to magically extract them from Lavan's place and, instead, plant them inside those stones temporarily, until the time would come for them to be born.

Therefore, the twelve stones, representing the twelve tribes, fought to have Ya'akov rest his holy head on them in order to uproot the souls from Lavan and transport them into the stones, rescuing them from danger.

In order to assist Ya'akov, God attached all twelve stones together so that Ya'akov could rest on them simultaneously, and thus concentrate on them concurrently, and subsequently save them all instantaneously. It worked. The souls were transferred into the stones, out of harm's way.

This is why such a fuss was made over those stones. They represented the tribes of Israel and the survival of the Jewish people.

By pouring oil over the stone, Ya'akov was anointing his children, paving the way for them to be born in holiness and purity. Oil represents the holiness of Torah's light. Ya'akov was injecting that holiness into his sons. Ya'akov's prayer was that no defect be found in his seed.

This explains why Ya'akov only surrounded his head with the stones. Ya'akov knew that he was going to be exposed to the tricky Lavan and his gangsters. Ya'akov was concerned that his hashkafos (view-points) might be negatively affected by their crooked philosophies. Maybe their skewed value system would sway Ya'akov away from Torah ideals.

But, Ya'akov also knew that a child can bring merit to a parent (Sanhedrin, chap. 11, "Chelek", pg. 104a). Ya'akov knew that all of his children would indeed be righteous. Therefore, he specifically surrounded his head with the stones, so that the souls of his own righteous children would protect him from formulating crooked hashkafos.

It turns out that, on the one hand, the twelve sons relied on Ya'akov to rescue them from the claws of Lavan, and, on the other hand, Ya'akov depended on his twelve sons to protect him from adopting a warped vision of what's truly important in this world (Shvilei Pinchas).

After establishing that there is so much meaning behind this stone, whatever happened to it? Where can we find it today?

The Zohar (Noach, pg. 72a, Rebbi Yehudah; Ohr Hachayim Hakadosh, Gn. 28:22) says that the stone of Ya'akov was the Even Shesiyah (drinking stone) found in the holy of holies, underneath the Holy Ark (Mishnah, Yoma, chap. 5, "Hotziyu Lo", Mishnah 2, pg. 53b; Gemara there pg. 54b). This means that when God created this planet, He began its creation from a point and expanded the Earth from that place. One could say that the earth "drank" or grew from that point.

Hashem submerged Ya'akov's stone down to the great deep, right next to the starting point of earth's creation. Because of the stone's proximity to that starting place, the stone took on the name "Shesiyah" (drinking), indicating that it lay adjacent to the place that the Earth nursed or drank from (Biur Hachrdal on Pirkei d'Rebbi Eliezer, chap. 35, #69).

Therefore, the stone of Ya'akov is found at the core of the earth. The Shevet Mussar (Rabbi Eliyahu Hakohen Haltamari, Smyrna Turkey, 1640-1729) suggests that there are some crucial lessons we could learn from this stone and its location.

As we mentioned above, the stone represents the tribes of Israel. Since it is found at the center of the earth, this teaches us that the world was created for the Jewish people (See Rashi, Gn. 1:1, citing Shemos Rabba, 31:9, Jer. 2:3).

We also stated previously that the oil that Ya'akov poured over the stone represented the light of Torah (Vayikra Rabba, 3:7). Since the oil on the stone is also found at the core of the earth, it teaches us that the world was created for the Torah as well (See Rashi, Gn. 1:1, Pro. 8:22).

When you put these two thoughts together, it teaches us that the world was created for the Jewish people to study Torah. But, don't forget that, originally, they were twelve stones. Only later did they become one. This teaches us about the importance of unity. Putting it all together, the tribes of Israel are charged with learning the Torah in just such a way that it brings unity amongst us.

Herein lies a practical application of this lesson. After each TORAH session, let's make it a habit to say, "What can I take out of this piece of Torah that applies specifically to doing acts of kindness with others which will generate even more UNITY between us."

This practice will strengthen the world, making it into a healthier and happier place.

So, may we, the Twelve Tribes of Israel, be blessed with the desire and strength to learn Torah in holiness, and find its application with respect to helping others, generating even more unity amongst us, which will serve as the catalyst to send down the third Beis Hamikdash which will sit on the foundational cornerstone of the world at the center of the Earth, ensuring continued peace for our children and generations to come.