Monday, December 5, 2016

Stone Squabble

Rav Lipman Podolsky z"l 

We all certainly remember the Medrash that relates how the twelve stones that Yaakov used as his pillow squabbled with one another (Chullin 91b). "The Tzaddik should rest his head on me!" cried each stone. In the end, Hashem miraculously fused the stones into one. Thus, "He took the stone that he had placed around his head (Breishis 28:18)."

Why do our Sages describe the interaction between the stones as a quarrel? Why not a discussion or dialogue? Quarrel distinctly connotes negativity. What was negative regarding the stones' desire to serve the Tzaddik?

My rebbe, Rav Zeidel Epstein shlit"a, explains that the problem with the stones' attitude was how they expressed their desire. "The Tzaddik should rest his head on me!" Why did they not say "on us"? It seems as if it was not sufficient for each stone to have the Tzaddik rest his head on it; it also wanted to exclude the others from this privilege.

Thus, their competition is described as a quarrel. When we daven, we dare not daven only for ourselves (Brachos 29b-30a). On the contrary, throughout our many tefillos, we almost invariably speak in the plural, asking on behalf of all our fellow Jews.Chas v'shalom should we exclude someone else in need.

How can we eradicate our innate desire to exclude others? The answer is revealed in what happened to the stones. Hashemunified them into one cohesive unit. Gone is the potential for separation and divisiveness. Their very oneness prevents them from quarreling.

And this is how we should live as well. If my right hand wields a knife that accidentally cuts my left thumb, never would we expect the thumb to take revenge. They are both part and parcel of the same body! So is it with all Jews.

"Who is like Your people, Yisrael, a singular nation on earth (Shmuel II 7:23)!"