July 19, 2024
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Zera Shimshon on Parshas Vayeitzei

וַיִּפְגַּע בַּמָּקוֹם וַיָּלֶן שָׁם כִּי בָא הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ וַיִּקַּח מֵאַבְנֵי הַמָּקוֹם וַיָּשֶׂם מְרַאֲשֹׁתָיו וַיִּשְׁכַּב בַּמָּקוֹם הַהוּא: וַיַּשְׁכֵּם יַעֲקֹב בַּבֹּקֶר וַיִּקַּח אֶת הָאֶבֶן אֲשֶׁר שָׂם מְרַאֲשֹׁתָיו וַיָּשֶׂם אֹתָהּ מַצֵּבָה וַיִּצֹק שֶׁמֶן עַל רֹאשָׁהּ:

(בראשית כח/יא, יח)

It is written “Vayikach m’avnei hamokom, And he took from the stones (plural) of the place.” After this, it is written, “vayikach ess ha’even, and he took the stone (singular).” Rebbi Yitzchak explains, this teaches us that all the stones came together to one place and each stone said, “the tzadik should rest his head on me.” A Tanna taught; all the stones merged into one.” (Chulin 91b)

On this Gemara, Tosfos comments; the simple understanding of these pesukim is that Yaakov took one stone from the many stones that were on the ground and put it under his head.

Zera Shimshon writes that the mefarshim have different opinions as to what Tosfos intended by explaining the simple pshat of the pasuk. Some mefarshim explain that Tosfos is really questioning Rebbi Yitzchak; what warranted Rebbi Yitzchak to say that all the stones came together? We can understand the pasuk using the simple pshat that Yaakov put one of the many stones on the ground under his head.

Zera Shimshon rejects this answer because if Tosfos is questioning Rebbi Yitzchak’s explanation, the opening words of Tosfos would have been Amar Rebbi Yitzchak, Rebbi Yitzchak said, and not as the Gemara begins “It is written…”

Therefore, Zera Shimshon explains that Tosfos initially understood that the Gemara is NOT asking about the simple contradiction between two pesukim the way the Gemara usually asks about contradictions in many other places in Shas. In the other places we can understand the topic at hand according to each of the two pesukim. The problem is we don’t know which of these pesukim is to be understood at face value, and which one needs to be explained some other way.

Concerning this Gemara, it is different. Yaakov did not need a lot of stones for a pillow under his head, so seemingly the second pasuk, which says that Yaakov took only one stone, should be taken at face value. The Gemara is therefore really asking; what does it mean that Yaakov took many stones (the first pasuk)?

Rebbi Yitzchak answers; Yaakov only wanted to take one stone. However, when he began to take one stone, all the rocks came together, to be able to serve the tzadik, so Yaakov ended up taking “from the stones” all the stones that came.

Now there arises a new question: What does the second pasuk, “he took a stone (singular)” mean? To answer, the Gemara quotes the Tanna that all the stones merged together into one. According to this explanation, there is no longer a contradiction between the pesukim; Yaakov initially took many stones, then the stones merged, and Yaakov ended up putting only one stone under his head. This is a simple and straightforward way to learn the Gemara.

Tosfos rejects this understanding of the Gemara because according to this, it should have been written; Yaakov took “avnei hamokom, the stones of the place” which would imply that Yaakov took all the stones that were there, and not, “m’avnei hamokom, from the stones of the place” which implies some of the stones but not all of them.

Tosfos therefore explains that the Gemara understood, right from the beginning, that Yaakov took only one stone from the many that were there, like the simple understanding of the pesukim..

The Gemara’s question was, why did the Torah mention that Yaakov took one stone from the many stones of the place? What is the difference if there was only one stone, and Yaakov took that individual one, or if Yaakov took one stone from the many that were there? Rebbi Yitzchak answers that this alludes to the fact that all the stones came together to have the zechus of the tzadik putting his head on them!

According to this pshat, that Yaakov took only one stone from many, there is now no need to learn that all of the stones merged into one like the Tanna said and it seems that Rebbi Yitzchak argues on him.

Zera Shimshon suggests a possibility that Rebbi Yitzchak is not arguing with the Tanna of the braysa but explaining him. Since all of the stones came to serve Yaakov, the Tanna understood that they were transformed into one stone. Hashem made this miracle so as to not disappoint the stones that had good intentions.

To summarize: Zera Shimshon learns a novel peshat in Tosfos’s understanding of the Gemara in Chullin, which is bothered by the seeming contradiction in the pesukim about the number of stones Yaakov took. The Gemara is not saying that there is contradiction between these pesukim because it is not written in the first pasuk that Yaakov took many stones. It is only written that Yaakov took a stone from among many.

The Gemara’s question is, why did the Torah write that Yaakov took one stone from many? What is the difference if he took one stone from many other stones or Yaakov only found one stone and used that one?

Rebbi Yitzchak answers; it is to teach us that even though Yaakov only needed one stone, many stones came to him so they will merit serving a tzadik.

Zera Shimshon is unsure if Rebbi Yitzchak argues on the Tanna and holds that only one stone merited that Yaakov putting his head on it, and the rest of the stones stayed on the ground disappointed.

The other possibility is that Rebbi Yitzchak really agrees with the Tanna that all of the stones merged into one big stone. He is only saying the reason that the stones turned into one stone; since they came with the noble intentions of serving the tzadik Yaakov.

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