13. Vayetze II - THE SACRED ROCK

WHENEVER I VISIT Israel and go to pray at the Kotel , the Western Wall, I am grieved that the most sacred part of the Har Habayit , of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, is not in Jewish hands. Long after the destruction of the Temple, an imposing mosque was erected by Caliph Malik on the site of the Bet Hamikdash . The mosque has at its center the rock which Jacob had set up as a monument of faith and devotion to God. (See Gen. 28:22). That explains why that world famous magnificent edifice is known as "The Dome of the Rock."

In Hebrew that rock is called Eben Shetiyah . According to the Mishnah (Yoma 53b), the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies rested on that sacred rock. During the period of the Second Temple, the High Priests would set on it the censer of burning incense on Yom Kippur.

The meaning of the word Sheriyah puzzled the commentaries. I would like to discuss briefly three interpretations offered by scholars.

The first associates the word with foundation (Yoma 54b). God used that stone as a foundation for the creation of the world.

Since the days of Jacob, that rock is the symbol of holiness and faith in the divine. Thus the Eben Shetiyah teaches that without true faith in God there can be no durable world, no high national purpose, no home worthy of the name.

The second meaning identifies that rock with the literal meaning of Shetiyah , namely, flowing water. This translation stresses the thought that in addition to faith, man must be clean in thought and deed as are the waters that were covered by the Eben Shetiyah . That, in fact was the significance of the moving exhortation of the great Prophet when he said, "Wash you and make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before Mine eyes" (Isaiah 1:16).

The third is based on the word sheti , which means embroidery, tapestry, beauty.

The Jewish home is frequently referred to by the sages as a mikdash me'at , a miniature sanctuary. In order to maintain the high and sacred position which it occupied through the ages, the Jewish home should be based on the ideas of the Eben Shetiyah , on the rock of faith and purity. The harmonious blending of service to God and man will result in a beautiful tapestry of living, in a lovely relationship among all the members of the family, the nation and the world.

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