Zin Valley, in the Negev Desert. (Mendy Hechtman/Flash90) Mendy Hechtman/Flash90
.Zin Valley, in the Negev Desert


When the Jewish people are united there is nothing stopping us. Unity is always the key to victory!

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

This week’s Torah portion is “Vayeitzei” (Genesis 28:10-32:3) and in it we read about Jacob’s dream and ladder after camping out in “Beit El” which some sources say refers to the Temple Mount. When winding down for the night, Jacob “took from the rocks of the place” in order to make himself a small makeshift bedroom.

The Talmud teaches that Jacob took 12 stones, symbolizing the Jewish people’s 12 tribes. We are told that before going to sleep Jacob said to himself, “If these 12 stones that I am placing under my head will merge into a single stone [when I awake in the morning], I will take it as a sign [that I am indeed to be the patriarch of the 12 Tribes].”

And so it was.

When Jacob woke up in the morning the 12 stones had merged into one. He realized that God was indeed confirming that he would father the twelve tribes of Israel.

However, the question is asked: If Jacob was seeking a sign that he would father the 12 tribes, wouldn’t it make much more sense if the sign was one stone turning into 12 stones rather than 12 stones turning into one stone?! Jacob’s request that the twelve stones become one seems counter intuitive and seemingly a sign of the opposite outcome.

Good question, no?

It is explained that when God told Abraham that “I will make you into a “great” (gadol) nation, Abraham challenged this promise by responding “but you already have 70 nations who are descended from Noah, what will be so special about my nation?” God then answered Abraham  that “the nation that will descend from you is the nation about whom it will be said “such a great (gadol) nation,” meaning that this new nation would be greater than all the others!

But…what is so great about the Jews? They are one of the smallest nations in the world, not one of the largest or greatest!

What’s going on over here?

The answer is that “big” does not mean the most numerous. Rather, “big” and means those with the “greatest” effect on others! When God was promising Abraham that his descendants would be the “gadol” nation, He did not mean great in numbers, he meant great in influence!

It is the Jewish people who are to be the “light unto the nations.” To influence. To set an example. To lead.

So getting back to Jacob’s odd request of twelve stones turning into one: he asked this because twelve into one shows unity, unity among the tribes. And only when the Jewish people are united can they have the most influence on humanity. In other words, Jacob wanted a sign that the twelve tribes will “work” – they will be able to undertake the sacred task entrusted to them.

And so it was, and so it could be. When the Jewish people are united there is nothing stopping us. But when we fracture, our enemies take advantage and are able to hurt us. Unity is always the key to victory!

For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below.