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Jacob Rocks

12/05/2019 01:34:02 PM


There aren’t many rocks in my life. Actually, there are a lot of rocks in my life, but I don’t really pay close attention to them; unless they are stuck in my shoe, or spit on my windshield from the dump truck ahead of me on the highway. Yet, in our walls, and in the asphalt that makes up the concrete jungle of our urban lives, there are rocks and minerals. And these rocks grant us protection and stability.

One of the plot features of the Jacob narrative, in Parshat VaYeitzei, is rocks. I’m talking about the mineral filled stones of the earth. As Jacob runs away from home, he camps out on a random hill. Enter the first stone. As Jacob lies down to sleep, he takes a stone to use as a pillow. Then, when he awakes from his dream of the angels and of God’s promise, he anoints it with oil making a vow to God, using the stone as a pillar; a testament of the terms of the arrangement. The second stone of our narrative is atop the well in Padan-Aram. Back in his mom’s ancestral home, the shepherds would cover the well with a heavy stone, and once everyone would arrive, there would be enough muscle to uncover the well. However, smitten by the sight of Rachel, our text tells us that Jacob single-handedly uncovered the stone from the well. Last, a third stone monument makes an appearance later in the Jacob story where he and Laban make a pack over a pile of stones at Galeed. In these three instances, rocks are a symbol of weight; both physical and social. Rocks are supposed to be immovable and more permanent. Sometimes these unmovable stones are obstacles, other times they are deliberately placed.

As we reflect on stones in our own life, we can wonder what permanent marks we make and what stands as a testament for our values. In a way, when we support a synagogue or an institution, we are turning our values into something tangible and something stable and deliberate. Our digital footprint might not withstand the march of time, but a carved stone can transmit messages millennia into the future. How can we ensure that our legacy lives on after our immediate descendants no longer walk the Earth? What stones can we physically and metaphorically place as a testament to who we are and what we are all about today? As we leave the consumerism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday behind us, perhaps we can extend our connection with Giving Tuesday in honor of this week’s parsha and consider how we can invest in a more permanent testament though organizations that make tangible and real imprints in our society.

Tue, December 5 2023 22 Kislev 5784