parashas Vayeitzei 5782
“And he lighted upon the place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took one of the stones of the place, and put it under his head, and lay down in that place to sleep.”
– Genesis 28:11, JPS 1917 Tanach
On his journey to Charan, to find a wife, Jacob rested at hamakom (the place). He placed a stone underneath his head, went to sleep, and dreamt of a ladder spanning earth and heaven. Angels ascended and descended upon the ladder. When he awoke, he said “this is none other than the house of G-d, and this is the gate of heaven.’ And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put under his head, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it” (Genesis 28:17-18, JPS).
According to the Talmud, it is here that the Foundation Stone was located, since the beginning of the earth’s creation; for it was from hamakom (the place) that the world itself was created (Yoma 54b). According to Pirkei de Rabbi Eliezer, this stone was given the name evehn shetiyah (foundation stone), many generations later.
This stone symbolizes the center of the world, from where all the earth was created. Jacob poured oil on this stone, so that it could be used as a mizbeach (altar), later, when he would return from his journey to Haran. This location is also where the first and second Temples stood, many generations after Jacob. Additionally, this is where the third Temple will be built in Jerusalem.
What is the significance of the foundation stone? “Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a costly corner-stone of sure foundation” (Isaiah 28:16, JPS). Actually, the original Hebrew verse is written in the prophetic past tense; Rashi comments, “a decree has been decreed before Me, and I have set up the King Messiah, who shall be in Zion as an אֶבֶן בּוֹחֵן, a fortress stone, an expression of a fortress and strength” (Complete Jewish Tanach with Rashi Commentary; chabad.org).