This haftara is read twice every year when we have menorahs on our mind. It is the haftara for the first Shabbat of Chanukah and it is also the haftara for Parshat Beha’alotcha. We have in the past examined the character of the Satan and the dirty clothes of Yehoshua; we also had occasion to review in some depth the vision of the menorah described by the navi Zecharia. Now we will look a little more closely at the rock with seven eyes (Zecharia 3:9) – but not too closely, because there is much that is hidden in this text and that is forbidden to reveal in public discourse.
This stone is a powerful image that has been planted in our haftara. It is associated in the Zohar with Yaakov Avinu and the Even Hashetia (foundation stone). The students of the Vilna Gaon in Kol Hator use it as a point of departure to enumerate the seven stages of the unfolding of the final redemption. Many of the classical commentators consider it to have been an actual, literal stone that was used to build the second Beit HaMikdash, but in other contexts it is an allegory for the omniscience of Hashem. In truth it is probably all of these things at once. But why a rock, and why seven eyes? We will try to scratch the surface of this obscure text and provide some understanding.
When encountering difficult texts in Scripture, it is usually productive to consult Rashi, and Rashi doesn’t disappoint in the present case. He follows, first of all, the aforementioned reading that there is a literal stone that is the foundation stone of the Beit HaMikdash. This is the stone that the navi is describing. But now the navi can see that there are seven eyes on the stone and these, according to Rashi, correspond to the seven eyes of Hashem. It is strange for us to speak of Hashem having any number of eyes and certainly the choice of the number seven warrants further explanation.
There are a number of interesting parallels that have already been drawn between this stone and others that are specifically associated with the special kedusha of the Beit HaMikdash. First, in the second part of the pasuk, the navi speaks of Hashem engraving the stone in question. This suggests the process by which the special stones worn by the Kohen Gadol, on his shoulders and on his breastplate, are engraved by artisans with the names of the tribes of Israel. Ramchal associates this engraving of the stone with the final rectification of the physical universe which coheres with the previously mentioned reading of the Vilna Gaon. Furthermore, if the stone is for the foundation of the Beit HaMikdash, then it provides a suggestive parallel to the Even Hashetia which is the foundation of the universe in which the Beit HaMikdash was built. In fact the Zohar on Parshat Vayechi (I. 231a in original pagination) states that these stones are one and the same. It is the foundation stone that has seven eyes, engraved by the hand of Hashem (although some commentators say the stone was engraved by Zerubabel or his architects, which seems inconsistent with the literal reading of the text).
Rav Ashlag in his Perush HaSulam on the Zohar explains why there are seven eyes and thereby illuminates Rashi’s comment. Eyes in a spiritual context denote wisdom, and on this rock is imprinted the Divine Wisdom that created the universe. The physical universe is traditionally understood to be demarcated into seven stages of emanation from the Divine source. These are alluded to by the seven days of the week, for example. There are seven branches of the menorah in the Beit HaMikdash, representing the Divine Wisdom as it casts its light through the Sanctuary. On Chanukah, as on Shemini Atzeret, we count eight days and we light eight candles because we are extending our consciousness outside of the material world when we observe these holidays.
The Zohar is discussing this matter in Vayechi and not in Vayetze where Yaakov actually comes into contact with the Even Hashetia, because it is only at the end of his life as he gives a bracha to Yosef that Yaakov provides a clear framework for all of this wisdom, all of the bounty of this bracha. Zohar Chadash (II. 85) explicitly associates the stone from our haftara with Yaakov himself. Maharal in his book about Chanukah, Ner Mitzvah, explains why this is so. He explains that everything in the physical world is acted upon and acts upon other things so that all is in what we might today call a state of entropy. But not our forefather Yaakov. He is different from all of Hashem’s other creations, in large measure by virtue of his wisdom. These are, perhaps, his seven eyes – Yaakov’s seven eyes recalling the seven eyes of Hashem.
Just as a stone is inert and solid and not easily moved, so Yaakov sits alone and apart from the rest of the denizens of the material world and is not affected by the forces which buffet him and attempt to influence him. For this reason, the Maharal explains, the Torah when it was given to the sons of Yisrael was not written on silver or gold but on slabs of stone.
May we merit on this Chanukah the revelation of the hidden light of Torah, radiating out of the stones as much as from our candles. Then we might experience the light of the eighth day of creation and the stone that was disdained by the builders will again be for us a foundation.