Posts Tagged ‘cakes’

Vayeitzei: Rock Cakes

November 28, 2011

In the beginning of this parsha, Yaacov leaves Be’er Sheva and goes to Haran. He stops at “the place,” sleeps, and has a dream of a ladder extending to heaven, with angels going up and going down.  Hashem appears and tells Yaacov that he and his descendants will be given that land upon which he is lying, that his “seed shall be as the dust of the earth,” and that Hashem will provide protection.

Before Yaacov goes to sleep, he places stones around his head, but,  when he awakens, he takes the stone (singular) that he had placed at his head. He anoints it with oil, making it a monument (matzeiva).

At the end of the parsha, Yaacov and Lavan use stones to erect another matzeiva, to commemorate their truce.

See here for a shiur by Rabbi Berman that points out that Yaacov erected four matzeivot. The third is erected at the site where Yaacov had the dream when he returns there. The fourth is to mark the kever of Rachel.

Rabbi Berman explains how the four are all related to the dream and its promises of land, children, and protection:

“The first commemorates the dream itself, the second the protection of God, the third the promise of the land, and the fourth, tragically, the blessing of children. The presence of God in Yaacov’s life (‘nitzav alav’) and the ensuing sanctification (‘ve-rosho magia ha-shamayma’) are symbolized by Yaacov’s matzeivot and the annointing in Beit-El, the ‘gate of heaven.””

Why matzeivot? Rabbi Berman points out that the root for matzeivah appears twice in the dream. The ladder is mutzav, or set, upon the ground. Hashem is nitzav, standing, over Yaacov.

(Rabbi Berman also puts forth the following question: “There is only one other matzeiva in the Torah (not including the idolatrous ones of the nations of Canaan) and that is during the giving of the Torah. Moshe erects twelve matzeivot at the foot of Mount Sinai. What is the connection between Mount Sinai and Yaakov’s ladder?

I don’t know if this is the complete answer, but the Midrash points out that the word for ladder, sulam, and Sinai both have the numerical value of 130.  Rabbi Kahn has a discussion of this. He mentions other parallels between Sinai and ladder (both part of revelations, both were “conduits” to heaven). He adds that the word for voice, kol, has the numerical value of 130, as well, which ties in the power of prayer.

According to the Midrash (explained at Shirat Devorah), Yaacov’s dream includes a vision of Matan Torah, with the ladder being Har Sinai and the angels being Moshe and Aaron.

Getting back to stones, the word for stone, even, is seen as  a contraction of av (father) and ben (s0n). The Midrash says that Yaacov gathered twelve stones that became one, which foreshadowed the twelve tribes.)

For the parsha, I baked rock cake (also known as rock buns)(digression: I think a stone is technically a rock fragment, but most people use the words stone and rock interchangeably). This is a classic British tea time treat that is so easy to make, it is often one of the first recipes taught to school children (here is a recipe especially written for kids). They are so named because of their craggy, lumpy appearance–not their texture. The exterior is crispy and the interior is moist and tender–like a cake-ey cookie or a cross between a cookie and a scone. Only over baking will make these treats hard like rocks (well, that and letting them go stale. Although, there is little chance of that happening. My rock cakes are already almost all gone. I will have to bake again for Shabbos.)