The Jewish people, despite its smallness in number, can achieve great success as a “light unto the nations” through unity.
This week’s Torah portion is Vayeitzei (Genesis 28:10 – 32:3), and in it we read about Jacob’s famous dream that took place on the Temple Mount. This week, I don’t want to focus on the dream, but rather on the “campsite” that Jacob set up, where the dream took place.
There is something very strange in the verses leading up to Jacob lying down to sleep for the night and then again upon awakening from his dream. The Torah says that “he arrived at the place and lodged there because the sun had set. And he took some of the stones of the place and placed them at his head, and he lay down in that place.” After we read about the dream, the Torah then says “And Jacob arose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had placed at his head, and he set it up as a monument, and he poured oil on top of it.”
Can you spot the contradiction? In the first verse cited, we see that there were many stones, but later in the second verse, we see that there is only one stone. How could that be?
The Midrash (Rabbinic literature) explains that originally Jacob took 12 stones to place around his head for protection before going to sleep for the night. The 12 stones were symbolic of the 12 tribes that Jacob would father. However, the Midrash continues, Jacob wanted confirmation of the promise that he would indeed be the father of the 12 tribes. As such, Jacob said to God before retiring for the night: “If these 12 stones that I am placing under my head will merge into a single stone by the time I wake up in the morning, then I will take it as a Divine sign that I will truly be the father of the 12 tribes.” God complied with the request, and in the morning, as the verse states, there was only one stone.
Here’s the question the commentators ask: If Jacob was looking for a Divine sign, a miracle, demonstrating that he would be the patriarch of 12 tribes, would it not have been more logical for Jacob to ask for the sign in reverse? Namely, to take only one stone, and ask God to make divide it into twelve stones!
It is explained that the answer can be found in a conversation between God and Abraham. The Midrash states that when God told Abraham, “I will make you into a great nation” [Gen. 12:2], Abraham responded: “There are already 70 nations who descend from Noah. What will be so special about another nation?” God then answered, “The nation that will descend from you will be known as the Goy Gadol [Deut 4:7].
Spirituality vs. Physicality
Goy Gadol means “the big nation.” But the Jews have never been “the big nation!” In fact, we’re essentially one of the smallest nations! What happened to God’s promise?
The answer is that gadol (“big”) is not referring to physical size, but rather to spirituality, potential and benefit to the rest of mankind. For example, the Torah calls the sun gadol not because of its size, but because it gives warmth and light for the benefit of others (the whole world, actually). So, too, God is often called gadol as an expression of His desire to do good.
It is in this way that the Jews are gadol. No, the Jews are not the biggest in size, but they have the greatest spiritual potential, as God had promised.
Now we can understand why Jacob put God to the 12-to-one test and not a one-to-12 test. In order to be a goy gadol, and in order to be a great nation that can be an Or laGoyim, (light unto the nations), we need to be united! Just like you, our loyal supporters reading this article, are United with Israel, and together we make a huge impact on the world for the benefit of Israel, so, too, the Jewish people will be hugely successful when they are united. One stone.
To read more of Rabbi Enkin’s insights into this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below.