Eighteen Stones

2021

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.

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צור ישראל

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

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אבן ירושליים

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. 

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אבן השתייה

Foundation 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

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כותל

Western Wall

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.

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אבן טועים

Claimant’s Stone

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

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אבן חשן

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

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כדכד

Kadkod

“And I will make of Kadkod your battlements.”

Isaiah 54:12

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

אבני צור

Adam's Flints

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

אבן ריפוי

Healing Stone

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

אבני המקום

Jacob’s Pillow

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

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גל יעקב

Jacob’s Pillar

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

אבן תקומה

Preservation Stone

The sages taught in a Baraita; One may go out with a preservation stone which prevents miscarriages on shabbat. 

Talmud, Shabbat 66b:20

אבן יולדת

Birthing Stones

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”. 

Exodus 1:16

צור חרב

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.

Exodus 17:6

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לחת אבן

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 .

Exodus 31:18

אבן שבעת עינים

Stone with Seven Eyes

For mark well the stone I place before Joshua, a single stone with seven eyes.

Zechariah 3:9

 

“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.”

Rashi

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

צרור

Pebble

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