Hadrash Ve-Haiyun Dor Revi’i
By Efraim Levine
He encountered the place and spent the night there because the sun had set. He took from the stones of place and he put them around his head and lay down in that place. (Bereishis 28:11)
In this week’s parsha we learn how Yaakov lay down to rest in the place where the beis hamikdash would eventually be built. Rashi tells us that Yaakov arranged stones around his head like a gutter pipe to protect it against dangerous animals. A simple understanding of this statement is that a gutter pipe is closed on three sides and open on the forth. Yaakov arranges the stones in such a way and inserted his head in the open side. His head was thus protected on three sides.
We may ask why was it necessary for Rashi to tell us that the shape of the stones was like that of gutter pipe. Seemingly it would have sufficed to say that he put stones around his head for protection. Furthermore, what about his body? Why was Yaakov not concerned for its protection? We may therefore suggest that there is an additional symbolic teaching hidden in the mention of the gutter pipe surrounding the head of Yaakov.
The posuk says that he lay down in “that” place.
Rashi comments that the word “that” serves as an exclusion. It was only in that
place where he lay down to rest but during the fourteen years he spent in the
Chazal tell us that Torah is compared to water as it says “all that are thirsty go to water.” The Gemara explains that just as water gravitates to low places so does Torah find its way to the humble.
A gutter pipe is an object that collects water. It prevents dripping water from haphazardly falling off the roof and going to waste. The gutter pipe collects the water and directs it to specific location. During the waking hours of the day a person has many thoughts and ideas. As a person sleeps the mind collects these thoughts and ideas, organizes them and stores them. When a person awakes he feels that the ideas and thoughts of yesterday are firm and secure.
All the ideas and thoughts of Torah that Yaakov experienced over his fourteen years of study may be compared to drops of rain water that fall on the roof. As Yaakov lay down to sleep his mind collected these Torah thought and ideas, organized them and stored them within his mind. Chazal chose to mention a gutter pipe surrounding the head of Yaakov to illustrate that the purpose of Yaakov going to sleep was to collect and preserve his Torah accomplishments of the past fourteen years.
The posukim go on to tell us Yaakov arose early in the morning, took the stone that he had placed around his head, set it up as a pillar and poured oil on its top. He then took a vow saying that if Hashem would be with him he would establish that stone as the house of Hashem. The commentators explain this to mean that Yaakov vowed to establish the stone as the foundation of the Beis Hamikdash, the place where man would serve Hashem by offering sacrifices and prayer.
Why did Yaakov designate the stone as the house of Hashem and not the earth as the location of the house of Hashem?
Yaakov was teaching us an important principle in serving Hashem. Prayer and Torah study are interdependent. The stone was the gutter pipe mentioned above. The gutter pipe was symbolic of Yaakov’s fourteen years of Torah accomplishments. Is was specifically this stone that Yaakov wished to use as the foundation of the Beis Hamikdash. Success in prayer is dependent on a foundation of Torah accomplishment. Likewise, success in Torah study is dependent on a foundation of prayer. Yaakov taught us this principle when he combined the two.
Indeed we find this theme throughout the Torah and Chazal. For example, on Yom Kippur the Kohen Gadol enters the holy of holies to pray for the atonement of the Jewish People. It is in this place where the Holy Ark containing the Torah is found. Furthermore, the Beis Hamikdash is not only a central location of prayer it is also home to the Great Sanhedrin of seventy one elders who embody the authority of Torah law.
In our times, although we do not have a Beis Hamikdash the Gemara tells us about Abayei who said that he only wanted to pray in the place were he studied Torah. The Gemara explains that after the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, Hashem said that all He has in this world is the four cubics of Torah. It is here in this place of Torah that Abayei felt he could find Hashem receptive to answer his prayers.
To conclude we note the very end of our Shemonah Esrei prayer, “May it be Your will Hashem that You rebuild the Beis Hamikdash speedily in our days and grant us our portion in your Torah.” We learn from this prayer that these two concepts, Torah and prayer are related and dependent on each other.