Friday, November 12, 2010

The Stones of the Place

" ...and he took of the stones of the place... "
(Genesis 28:11)
Kislev 4, 5771/November 11, 2010

The sun set suddenly and Ya'akov avinu - Jacob our forefather - was compelled to pitch camp and stay the night. So Ya'akov "took of the stones of the place and placed [them] at his head, and he lay down in that place." (ibid) Now a person who has set out on a long journey knows that a good night's sleep is an imperative if he is to continue on his way in peace the following morning. Among other considerations to be made for a good night's sleep, comfort will surely be paramount. And anyone who has ever gone camping knows that the smallest pebble or bramble under one's bedroll will render utterly impossible a restful slumber. Yet Ya'akov, with great purpose, gathered up stones to employ as his pillow. Whatever was he thinking?
Midrash relates that the twelve stones that Ya'akov gathered up at that place were twelve stones that he pulled from the altar that his father Yitzchak had been bound upon one generation earlier. From this we learn that Ya'akov didn't stumble upon this place inadvertently. He knew exactly what this place was, that is, the place where his grandfather Avraham bound his father Yitzchak, the place where Adam first built an altar, the place known by our sages as the place of the world. That is, the place of the future Holy Temple.
Ya'akov deliberately dismantled the altar of Avraham and Yitzchak. Wasn't that disrespectful? Shouldn't he had stood off a bit in the distance, silently taking in the site of the great test of Avraham's faith? He could have meditated, contemplating the profundity of the site. But Ya'akov chose to do something else altogether. He chose, by deconstructing the altar and then reconstructing it as a pillow for his head, or should we say, a pillow for his consciousness, for his entire spiritual being, to opt into his father's and grandfather's experience of a direct and immediate relationship with G-d.
And Ya'akov took this paradigm of the man - G-d relationship not one, but many steps forward. He could hardly relive his father's experience by throwing himself down upon the altar. That was a onetime moment in the history of mankind. Instead, Ya'akov sought to take the intimacy of this moment and make it accessible to all. He removed twelve stones from the altar representing the twelve sons he was yet to have. He wanted to bequeath the Moriah experience of his father and grandfather to his children and to all further generations of man, through his children. This is the meaning of his exclamation upon awakening from his dream: "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of G-d, and this is the gate of heaven." (ibid 28:17) Just as Avraham's tent was open and welcoming to all passers by, "the house of the G-d of Ya'akov" (Isaiah 2:3) would likewise be a true house, accessible to all.
Ya'akov chose to not only honor the holy site where he spent the night, but to bring it to life and make it his, through his own active intervention. Those who today only view the Temple Mount from afar, insisting that we must not approach the Mount, may be paying respect to the place of the Holy Temple, but they are also, intentionally or not, rendering the place and all that it stands for, distant and irrelevant. The positive commandment that we fulfill by visiting the Temple Mount, (in accordance with halacha), is known in Hebrew as mora Mikdash - showing reverence to G-d on the site of the Holy Temple. The word mora - reverence - is derived from the same root as the word Ya'akov avinu uttered, "ma nora," "How awesome is this place!" (Genesis 28:17) Visiting and making our presence felt, as Jews and believers in the G-d of Ya'akov, on the Temple Mount is a direct continuation of Ya'akov's own actions which he took on this spot to lay his rightful claim to the spot and to the covenant between man and G-d that it embodies. We are unable in our generation to pull stones from the altar itself, but by being on the Mount where we are commanded by Torah to be seen by G-d, we can begin to remove the stones that have lodged in our hearts.
Temple TalkTune in to this week's Temple Talk as Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven are transfixed by this week's Torah reading of Vayeitzei, and its connection to the Holy Temple - past, present and future, and how Yaakov's prophecy on the Temple Mount, as expressed in the rocks he gathered, is being fulfilled today.
Tractate ZevachimWith great thanks to HaShem, the Temple Institute is proud to announce the historical, landmark publication of the Talmud Tractate Zevachim. This classic work deals intensively with the description and explanation of the Divine service of offerings, as it is performed in the Holy Temple. Now, for the first time in 2000 years, Tractate Zevachim has been published with an in-depth exploration and elucidation of all the commandments and traditions concerning the Temple offerings. Years in preparation, this work includes the "Sha'arei Heichal" ("Gates of the Sanctuary") commentary written by the Beit HaBechirah Kollel of the Temple Institute, whose scholars specialize and excel in the Torah knowledge of the Holy Temple and the Divine service, providing ground-breaking research, new insights, and, literally, hands-on investigation into the practical implementation of the commandments concerning the Temple offerings. To learn more, please click here.
Avraham & Sara, Part IIIThis week features the new Bat Melech video teaching with Rabbanit Rena Richman, entitled, "Avraham & Sara, Part III: United in their search for the One G-d, united against all the odds of a world hostile to the knowledge of the One G-d, and united in their love for one another, the source from which they drew their strength, Avraham & Sara are to be emulated by all who seek out the love and guidance of G-d in their lives." Click here to view.
Suppressing IniquityThis week also features the new Light to the Nations teaching by Rabbi Chaim Richman, entitled, "Suppressing Iniquity: G-d is neither an accountant nor a scorekeeper. He doesn't tally up our good deeds, subtract from them our transgressions, declare the balance and call it a day. G-d gathers up our good deeds, places them before Him, and does not allow our transgressions to diminish His delight with with all the good that we have accomplished." Click here to view.
Parashat Hashavua" ...and he took some of the stones of the place and placed them at his head, and he lay down in that place." (Genesis 28:11) What was "that place," and what was the nature of those stones that Ya'akov gathered together, and which, upon his awakening from his dream of a House of G-d, formed a single stone, which became the very "foundation stone" upon which all creation is established? And how could the "foundation stone" upon which the entire world rests find itself in that place and at that very moment when Ya'akov chose to take his sleep? It was Ya'akov's consecration of the stone with olive oil that made the transformation possible. Click here to view Rabbi Richman's short teaching on parashat Vayeitzei (Genesis 28:10-32:3).
Blessings from the holy city of Jerusalem,
  Yitzchak Reuven
  The Temple Institute

No comments: