These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

My ‘Night Seder’ Vort for Parshat Vayeitzei

Posted on November 19, 2012 by David Bogomolny

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I shared the following vort at night seder tonight:

Parshat Vayeitzei opens and closes with Ya’akov erecting a מצבה (monument) made of a single אבן (rock). These scenes beautifully bookend a significant period of Ya’akov’s life, during which he builds his family of twelve children (Binyamin hasn’t been born yet) with his two wives and their two maidservants.

Here is the beginning of the parasha
(Genesis 28:10-18):

י) וַיֵּצֵא יַעֲקֹב, מִבְּאֵר שָׁבַע; וַיֵּלֶךְ, חָרָנָה10) And Jacob went out from Beer-sheba, and went toward Haran.
יא) וַיִּפְגַּע בַּמָּקוֹם וַיָּלֶן שָׁם, כִּי-בָא הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ, וַיִּקַּח מֵאַבְנֵי הַמָּקוֹם, וַיָּשֶׂם מְרַאֲשֹׁתָיו; וַיִּשְׁכַּב, בַּמָּקוֹם הַהוּא11) And he lighted upon the place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took one of the stones of the place, and put it under his head, and lay down in that place to sleep.
יב) וַיַּחֲלֹם, וְהִנֵּה סֻלָּם מֻצָּב אַרְצָה, וְרֹאשׁוֹ, מַגִּיעַ הַשָּׁמָיְמָה; וְהִנֵּה מַלְאֲכֵי אֱלֹהִים, עֹלִים וְיֹרְדִים בּוֹ12) And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.
יג) וְהִנֵּה יְהוָה נִצָּב עָלָיו, וַיֹּאמַר, אֲנִי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵי אַבְרָהָם אָבִיךָ, וֵאלֹהֵי יִצְחָק; הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר אַתָּה שֹׁכֵב עָלֶיהָ–לְךָ אֶתְּנֶנָּה, וּלְזַרְעֶךָ13) And, behold, the LORD stood beside him, and said: ‘I am the LORD, the God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac. The land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed.
יד) וְהָיָה זַרְעֲךָ כַּעֲפַר הָאָרֶץ, וּפָרַצְתָּ יָמָּה וָקֵדְמָה וְצָפֹנָה וָנֶגְבָּה; וְנִבְרְכוּ בְךָ כָּל-מִשְׁפְּחֹת הָאֲדָמָה, וּבְזַרְעֶךָ14) And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south. And in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
טו) וְהִנֵּה אָנֹכִי עִמָּךְ, וּשְׁמַרְתִּיךָ בְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר-תֵּלֵךְ, וַהֲשִׁבֹתִיךָ, אֶל-הָאֲדָמָה הַזֹּאת: כִּי, לֹא אֶעֱזָבְךָ, עַד אֲשֶׁר אִם-עָשִׂיתִי, אֵת אֲשֶׁר-דִּבַּרְתִּי לָךְ15) And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee whithersoever thou goest, and will bring thee back into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.’
טז) וַיִּיקַץ יַעֲקֹב, מִשְּׁנָתוֹ, וַיֹּאמֶר, אָכֵן יֵשׁ יְהוָה בַּמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה; וְאָנֹכִי, לֹא יָדָעְתִּי16) And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said: ‘Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not.’
יז) וַיִּירָא, וַיֹּאמַר, מַה-נּוֹרָא, הַמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה: אֵין זֶה, כִּי אִם-בֵּית אֱלֹהִים, וְזֶה, שַׁעַר הַשָּׁמָיִם17) And he was afraid, and said: ‘How full of awe is this place! this is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.’
יח) וַיַּשְׁכֵּם יַעֲקֹב בַּבֹּקֶר, וַיִּקַּח אֶת-הָאֶבֶן אֲשֶׁר-שָׂם מְרַאֲשֹׁתָיו, וַיָּשֶׂם אֹתָהּ, מַצֵּבָה; וַיִּצֹק שֶׁמֶן, עַל-רֹאשָׁהּ18) And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put under his head, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.

Rashi picks up on “וַיִּקַּח מֵאַבְנֵי הַמָּקוֹם” (and he took one of the stones of the place) in verse 11, and comments:

וישם מראשותיו: עשאן כמין מרזב סביב לראשו שהיה ירא מפני חיות רעות. התחילו מריבות זו עם זו, זאת אומרת עלי יניח צדיק את ראשו, וזאת אומרת עלי יניח, מיד עשאן הקב”ה אבן אחת, וזהו שנאמר (פסוק יח) ויקח את האבן אשר שם מראשותיוand placed [them] at his head: He arranged them in the form of a drainpipe around his head because he feared the wild beasts. They [the stones] started quarreling with one another. One said, “Let the righteous man lay his head on me,” and another one said, “Let him lay [his head] on me.” Immediately, the Holy One, blessed be He, made them into one stone. This is why it is stated (verse 18):“and he took the stone [in the singular] that he had placed at his head.” [From Chullin 91b]

In other words, many stones converged together and dissolved into the one stone, which Ya’akov used to build a monument to commemorate his covenant with Hashem.

Now let’s look at the end of this parasha
(Genesis 31:43-54)

מג) וַיַּעַן לָבָן וַיֹּאמֶר אֶל-יַעֲקֹב, הַבָּנוֹת בְּנֹתַי וְהַבָּנִים בָּנַי וְהַצֹּאן צֹאנִי, וְכֹל אֲשֶׁר-אַתָּה רֹאֶה, לִי-הוּא; וְלִבְנֹתַי מָה-אֶעֱשֶׂה לָאֵלֶּה, הַיּוֹם, אוֹ לִבְנֵיהֶן, אֲשֶׁר יָלָדוּ43) And Laban answered and said unto Jacob: ‘The daughters are my daughters, and the children are my children, and the flocks are my flocks, and all that thou seest is mine; and what can I do this day for these my daughters, or for their children whom they have borne?
מד) וְעַתָּה, לְכָה נִכְרְתָה בְרִית–אֲנִי וָאָתָּה; וְהָיָה לְעֵד, בֵּינִי וּבֵינֶךָ44) And now come, let us make a covenant, I and thou; and let it be for a witness between me and thee.’
מה) וַיִּקַּח יַעֲקֹב, אָבֶן; וַיְרִימֶהָ, מַצֵּבָה45) And Jacob took a stone, and set it up for a pillar.
מו) וַיֹּאמֶר יַעֲקֹב לְאֶחָיו לִקְטוּ אֲבָנִים, וַיִּקְחוּ אֲבָנִים וַיַּעֲשׂוּ-גָל; וַיֹּאכְלוּ שָׁם, עַל-הַגָּל46) And Jacob said unto his brethren: ‘Gather stones’; and they took stones, and made a heap. And they did eat there by the heap.
מז) וַיִּקְרָא-לוֹ לָבָן, יְגַר שָׂהֲדוּתָא; וְיַעֲקֹב, קָרָא לוֹ גַּלְעֵד47) And Laban called it Jegar-sahadutha; but Jacob called it Galeed.
מח) וַיֹּאמֶר לָבָן, הַגַּל הַזֶּה עֵד בֵּינִי וּבֵינְךָ הַיּוֹם; עַל-כֵּן קָרָא-שְׁמוֹ, גַּלְעֵד48) And Laban said: ‘This heap is witness between me and thee this day.’ Therefore was the name of it called Galeed;
מט) וְהַמִּצְפָּה אֲשֶׁר אָמַר, יִצֶף יְהוָה בֵּינִי וּבֵינֶךָ: כִּי נִסָּתֵר, אִישׁ מֵרֵעֵהוּ49) and Mizpah, for he said: ‘The LORD watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another.
נ) אִם-תְּעַנֶּה אֶת-בְּנֹתַי, וְאִם-תִּקַּח נָשִׁים עַל-בְּנֹתַי–אֵין אִישׁ, עִמָּנוּ; רְאֵה, אֱלֹהִים עֵד בֵּינִי וּבֵינֶךָ50) If thou shalt afflict my daughters, and if thou shalt take wives beside my daughters, no man being with us; see, God is witness betwixt me and thee.’
נא) וַיֹּאמֶר לָבָן, לְיַעֲקֹב: הִנֵּה הַגַּל הַזֶּה, וְהִנֵּה הַמַּצֵּבָה, אֲשֶׁר יָרִיתִי, בֵּינִי וּבֵינֶךָ51) And Laban said to Jacob: ‘Behold this heap, and behold the pillar, which I have set up betwixt me and thee.
נב) עֵד הַגַּל הַזֶּה, וְעֵדָה הַמַּצֵּבָה: אִם-אָנִי, לֹא-אֶעֱבֹר אֵלֶיךָ אֶת-הַגַּל הַזֶּה, וְאִם-אַתָּה לֹא-תַעֲבֹר אֵלַי אֶת-הַגַּל הַזֶּה וְאֶת-הַמַּצֵּבָה הַזֹּאת, לְרָעָה52) This heap be witness, and the pillar be witness, that I will not pass over this heap to thee, and that thou shalt not pass over this heap and this pillar unto me, for harm.
נג) אֱלֹהֵי אַבְרָהָם וֵאלֹהֵי נָחוֹר, יִשְׁפְּטוּ בֵינֵינוּ–אֱלֹהֵי, אֲבִיהֶם; וַיִּשָּׁבַע יַעֲקֹב, בְּפַחַד אָבִיו יִצְחָק53) The God of Abraham, and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge betwixt us.’ And Jacob swore by the Fear of his father Isaac.
נד) וַיִּזְבַּח יַעֲקֹב זֶבַח בָּהָר, וַיִּקְרָא לְאֶחָיו לֶאֱכָל-לָחֶם; וַיֹּאכְלוּ לֶחֶם, וַיָּלִינוּ בָּהָר54) And Jacob offered a sacrifice in the mountain, and called his brethren to eat bread; and they did eat bread, and tarried all night in the mountain.

Rashi comments on the word “לְאֶחָיו” (unto his brethren) in verse 31:46:

לאחיו: הם בניו, שהיו לו אחים נגשים אליו לצרה ולמלחמה:to his kinsmen: [lit., to his brothers.] They are his sons, who were to him like brothers, drawing near him for trouble or for war (Gen. Rabbah 74:13).

After all, Ya’akov only had one brother (who wasn’t even present in that scene) so he must have been speaking to somebody else.

Ramban wrote that Ya’akov was speaking to “לאחי לבן” (Lavan’s brothers), and Radak suggested that this meant:

לאחיו: לאנשיו… לבן גם כן עם אנשיו לקטו אבנים… יעקב עם אשר עמו ולבן עם אשר עמו… כולם היו בכלל אחיו אחר שהיה שלום ביניהםTo his people… Lavan and also his people gathered rocks… Ya’akov with his (people) and Lavan with his (people)… All were brothers after (making) peace between them.

From this, it seems that the processes of testifying to a covenant between a single, independent man and Hashem and of testifying to a covenant between men require different kinds of ‘monuments’ to bear witness.

In the first case, the testimonial was as simple as could be: a single rock sufficed, and multiple other rocks were absorbed into it (Rashi), thereby simplifying even the selection of an appropriate testimonial. Hashem knows each and every one of us – and is always ready to accept us.

However, in the case of the covenant between Ya’akov and Lavan, the households of these two men had to participate in building a second testimonial to their covenant (a heap of rocks) along side the monument that Ya’akov erected himself. The importance of these two testimonials (Ya’akov’s monument and the nearby heap of rocks) can be found in verses 31:51-52.

Agreements between people always affect others; it’s unavoidable. Whereas Hashem is endlessly available to all of mankind equally, people are finite – and interconnected with one another.

Interpersonal relationships do not exist independently of one another, and how much more so with intrafamilial relationships. By the time Ya’akov had built a family, testifying to a covenant with Lavan could only be a complex matter because of all the others – in Ya’akov’s & Lavan’s households – who would be affected by their agreement and therefore also had to be given a say.