10" x 14"
Stones, אבנים (avanim in Hebrew) have always held an appeal for me. I collect them from each place I visit as a tactile reminder of a place and time.
Reading a poetic passage in Zechariah began my research into the significance of boulders, rocks, stones and pebbles in Judaism. Stones symbolize holiness and sanctify place, they commemorate relationships and act as talisman, cairns, weapons and birthing aids. The Foundation Stone is fabled as the navel of creation.
This book celebrates all stones through a narrative arc from the immeasurably large Rock of Israel (God), the Holiest Stone, to the smallest pebble we leave on the gravestone to commemorate the dead.
The eighteen passages I have chosen from various Judaic sources illustrate a spectrum of history and myth. In Judaic numerology, eighteen stands for chai or life. My intent is to symbolize the relevance of stones in our modern world as a living tie that still binds us to our ancient tradition.
Rock of Israel
“Rock of Israel, arise to the aid of Israel, and liberate Judah and Israel as you .”
Siddur Ashkenaz, Weekday, Morning Blessings of the Shma
Jerusalem Stone is the name for various limestones which face every building in Jerusalem since biblical times. From the British Mandate until today municipal laws requires all buildings be faced with the local Jerusalem stone.
What did the Holy One do? Took the right foot, sank it to its deepest depths and made it a keystone for the earth. Therefore, it is called a foundation stone, because there is the navel of the world and from there the world
was opened out.
Midrash Tehillim 91
This is one of the four supporting walls of the Temple Mount that remained intact after the destruction of The Second Temple in 70 CE by the Romans. It is the focus of yearning and prayer for the Jewish people throughout time.
Go out and see if the claimant’s stone upon which proclamations would be posted with regard to lost and found articles has been washed away.
Mishnah Taanit 3:8
Stones of the Breastplate
The precious stones on the breastplate represent the whole nation. “Aaron shall carry the names of the sons of Israel on the breastplate of decision over his heart when he enters the sanctuary for remembrance of the Lord at all times.”
Torah Exodus 28:29
“And I will make of Kadkod your battlements.”
Rabbi Samuel ben Nachmeni said, “ In heaven, Gabriel and Michael differ on what is Kadkod. One says its means onyx which gives light and one says jasper which reflects light. God says let it be like this and like that both”
Ein Yaakov, Bava Batra 5
Rabbi Yosei says, “At the conclusion of the shabbat, God granted Adam creative knowledge. He brought two rocks together and rubbed them against each other and the first fire emerged. “
Mishnah, Pesachim 54a
Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai said that Abraham wore a precious stone around his throat and whosoever was sick and looked at the stone became cured immediately.
Akedat Yitzchak, 4:1
And he arrived to a place and stopped for the night, for the sun had set. He took stones from the place and placed them under his head and
lay down there.
Torah, Genesis 28:11
Laban said, “Come let us
make a pact between us so there will be a testament between you and me.” And Jacob ordered his kinsmen “Gather stones.” So they took stones and made a mound and partook of a meal there (with Laban).
Torah, Genesis 44-46
The sages taught in a Baraita; One may go out with a preservation stone which prevents miscarriages on shabbat.
Talmud, Shabbat 66b:20
Pharoah said to the midwives Shifrah and Puah, “When you deliver the Israelite women, look at the birth stone: if it is
a boy, kill him and if a girl,
let her live”.
Boulder of Mount Chorev
God said “Strike the boulder and water will issue from it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.
Tablets of Stone
At the end of his speech on Mount Sinai, God gave to Moses two tablets of the covenant, tablets of stone crafted by the finger of God .
אבן שבעת עינים
Stone with Seven Eyes
For mark well the stone I place before Joshua, a single stone with seven eyes.
“It appears to me that the seven eyes are
the eyes of the Holy One. The eyes of the Lord they are roving to and fro throughout the land.”
חמישה חלקי אבנים
Five Smooth Stones
David took his stick and picked up five smooth stones from the wadi and put them in his shepherd’s bag.
Samuel I 17:40
The Hebrew word for ‘pebble’ is tz’ror , in Hebrew it also means ‘bond.’ When we pray the memorial prayer, we ask that the deceased be ‘bound up in the bond of life’ – tz’ror haHayyim. By placing the stone, we show that we have been there, and that the individual’s memory continues to live on in and through us.”
Rabbi Simcha Weintraub
Director of the New York Healing Center