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    Stones becoming one – Vayyetzei

    If Shakespeare is right that there are sermons in stones, the Jacob narrative in today’s portion offers an example.

    After leaving home, Jacob made a pillow out of stones and lay down to sleep.

    How many stones did he take to make up his pillow?

    The text doesn’t specify but merely informs us, “He took some of the stones of the place” (Gen. 28:11). But another verse uses the singular: “He took the stone” (verse 18): one stone.

    Rabbinic ingenuity resolves the contradiction by means of a story.

    What happened? There were a number of stones, and they began to argue with each other. Each wanted Jacob to rest his head on it. “Let the tzaddik put his head on me,” said one stone. “No, let him put his head on me,” said another.

    In the end God had to step in. He turned them all into one stone, and that was the end of the quarrel.

    This is the way Rashi explains the situation, basing himself on an idea found in the Talmud.

    Ibn Ezra and other commentators disagree and say that there was only one stone all the way through, and when the verse said, translating it literally, “He took of the stones”, it really meant “He took one of the stones”.

    The debate will probably never be finally resolved, but the Rashi approach enshrines a fascinating idea.

    When there is a quarrel between people and katuv sh’lishi yachri’a beineihem, a third party is able to settle it, the parties often end up as such good friends that they wonder how they could have been so far apart for so long. Two stones are now one!

    The moral of the story: we should never imagine that gaps cannot be narrowed; we should never lose hope that divergent viewpoints can be reconciled. Stones can really become one. Enemies can really become friends.

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