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16Therefore, so has the Lord God said: "Behold, I have laid as a foundation a stone in Zion, a fortress stone, a costly cornerstone, a foundation well founded; the believer shall not hasten.

טזלָכֵ֗ן כֹּ֚ה אָמַר֙ אֲדֹנָ֣י יֱהֹוִ֔ה הִנְנִ֛י יִסַּ֥ד בְּצִיּ֖וֹן אָ֑בֶן אֶ֣בֶן בֹּ֜חַן פִּנַּ֚ת יִקְרַת֙ מוּסָ֣ד מוּסָּ֔ד הַמַּֽאֲמִ֖ין לֹ֥א יָחִֽישׁ:

https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/15959/showrashi/true#v16

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As usual, your questions are few in words and full of meaning.

Like with all the Prophets, their language is usually not to be taken in a literal sense, but rather in an allegorical sense.

In this case, the stone mentioned is referring to a particular King destined to lead the nation of Israel. This is in keeping with both Targum Yonatan and Radak to this line. In the context of Isaiah (the Prophet of the final redemption) in general, this means Melech HaMoshiach.

Rabbi Chiya to Yerushalmi Yoma 27a:3 compares this King to the Foundation Stone in the Holy of Holies of the Temple in Jerusalem, the stone upon which the Ark of the Covenant (which contains the tablets of the ten commandments) rests.

The key to addressing your particular question (does this stone pertain to the whole building or just a single corner) relates to understanding the concept of foundation (יסד ,מוסד or יסוד) from the Hebrew used by the Prophet.

This is picked up on in the commentary of Metzudat David who explains that this particular King will be like the ultimate example of a Foundation (יהיה כהיסוד המיוחד שביסודות).

And this points to the concept of Yesod, meaning Foundation, as used in this context.

This refers to a Kabbalistic concept pertaining to the ten Sephirot (Qualities by which the structure of all creation is established and operates. Discussion of this subject can be found in Sefer Yetzirah, for example, and many other sources.). The ninth of these sephirot (if going from above to below) is called Yesod and is described in terms of function as the vehicle which makes it possible to connect and become one with G-d's Kingship (מלכות).

Just to emphasize, the connection is with G-d's Kingship, meaning how G-d's dominion is revealed within all of His creation. This is what Melech HaMoshiach (King Messiah) enables.

  • I did not find a reference in the Jerusalem Talmud. Did you possibly intend the Babylonian? Am I understanding you correctly that the sages gave consideration to the question of why a corner stone would be also considered a foundation stone, as they generally serve different functions (the cornerstone being more honorific than supportive)? – Ruminator Jan 15 at 20:46
  • @Ruminator I added a link to the page quoted. Rabbi Chiya's comments appear at the bottom of the page. The language (meaning the original language) in Navi has to be understood as the Sages explain its meaning and context. In this case, the Prophet is connecting the concept of Yesod (יסוד) with Even (אבן). If you are unfamiliar with these types of teachings, it makes it difficult to appreciate how they get there. The Targum and Radak extend that teaching to explain that the usage of 'stone' (Even) here relates to Kingship. – Yaacov Deane Jan 15 at 21:44
  • Is the cornerstone taught by the sages to be not only the cornerstone but also the foundation stone, for example because it is the stone that supports the "world" and the holy place? I think you are telling me the answer to this question but with an element of vaguery which because of my temperament is unnerving. – Ruminator Jan 16 at 2:23
  • @Ruminator Without getting into a much more involved discussion, when you see what you are calling ’cornerstone’ & ‘foundation stone’, think husband & wife in the context of Genesis 2:23-24. That should eliminate any element of vagueness for you. – Yaacov Deane Jan 16 at 4:03
  • I guess what is confusing is the idea of a cornerstone also being a foundation stone, since I picture the cornerstone to rest on top of the foundation stone. truthortradition.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/… – Ruminator Jan 16 at 15:09

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