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Genesis 29:10

(10) And when Jacob saw Rachel, the daughter of his uncle Laban, and the flock of his uncle Laban, Jacob went up and rolled the rock off the mouth of the well, and watered the flock of his uncle Laban.

1) Why did Yaakov roll the rock off of the well? What was his objective? Was he trying to demonstrate his strength? If so, why? He could have just waited for the normal procedure of the shepherds removing the rock as a group. Why even get involved?

2) Yaakov ultimately wanted to find Lavan, why did he need to go through all the conversation with shepherds (previous verses) and remove the rock? Why not just go to Lavan’s house and say hello?

3) Why does the Torah include this story?

  • As to "why?" - because one can't water sheep until the rock is rolled off. To prove what?, Rashi -- that Jacob drew near and rolled: As one who removes the stopper from a bottle, to let you know that he possessed great strength (Gen. Rabbah 70:12). – rosends Dec 20 '16 at 18:50
  • @Danno I understand that to get water they needed to remove the rock. However, he could have just waited for the normal procedure of the shepherds removing the rock as a group. Why even get involved? Furthermore, according to the Medrash Rabah you quoted, why would he need to demonstrate that he has great strength? What was the objective of that? I am sure he is not just trying to show off. – RCW Dec 20 '16 at 19:21
  • Re Q2 - From the questions that he asked the shepherds, I understand that he didn't know exactly where his home was. They didn't have reliable GPS at the time :-) – DanF Dec 20 '16 at 20:46
  • When he saw Rachel coming and was told that she was the daughter of Lavan he realized that he wanted to marry her. He did not want her to have to wait around and be subject to the mob of shepherds who would probably have pushed her to the back of the line. As a result, he took the rock off the well so that she could get the water right away. – sabbahillel Dec 20 '16 at 21:22
  • @DanF So true! I guess he could have just asked them, but then Rachel was coming so things changed. – RCW Dec 21 '16 at 3:46
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The Seforno writes:

Sforno on Genesis 29:13:1

(13) את שמע יעקב, that he had succeeded in single-handedly rolling the rock off the top of the well.

ספורנו על בראשית כ״ט:י״ג:א׳

יג) את שמע יעקב שגלל את האבן הוא לבדו:

Based on this Sforno I came across a fascinating answer provided by Rabbi Darrell Ginsberg. He was addressing a different issue, but in doing so he addresses the question I raised. He writes:

...What plan did Yaakov have then? The Torah tells us (ibid 13) that “When Lavan heard the news of Yaakov, his sister's son, he ran to greet him.” The Sforno (ibid) points out that the “news” here refers to Yaakov’s moving the stone off the well, meaning that Lavan had heard about this event. Why is this significant for us to know? As mentioned above, Yaakov came to Charan without anything or anyone. His objective, as related by his parents, was clear – escape from Esav, find Lavan, and eventually search for a spouse from within Lavan’s family. Why not just walk up to Lavan’s door and knock, rather than go through all the conversations with the other shepherds and the displacement of the rock? As a result of his wealth, Lavan, as the Malbim (ibid 5) points out, was the most well known man in Charan. Showing up at Lavan’s house as a desperate, poor relative would certainly engender sympathy from his host. But Yaakov knew that in the long term, a sudden appearance would work against him. Eventually, the sympathy would fade and Yaakov would be seen as a burden, someone in a constant state of need. For someone whose value system revolved around the acquisition of wealth, power and fame, to relate to someone as being a needy individual would compromise the relationship. Yaakov understood that in order for the plan of his parents to succeed, he needed to take the initiative. He realized that obtaining a reputation, like becoming known for some great feat in the local community, would go a long way to establishing an identity that Lavan would relate to. Based on this approach, it could be Yaakov’s plan developed when he saw this unique situation at the well, where a stone was covering it and was not able to be moved by anyone. By removing the stone, he would achieve instant fame, which he sensed would be appealing to someone of Lavan’s position. As mentioned above, the Torah (ibid 10) tells us that “When Yaakov saw Rochel, the daughter of Lavan, his mother's brother, and the sheep of Lavan, his mother's brother, he stepped near and rolled the stone from the mouth of the well”. It is interesting that Yaakov looks towards both, Rochel and the sheep of Lavan. The obvious result of moving the rock would be to benefit Rochel. Yet he realized it would also benefit the flocks belonging to Lavan, something Lavan would certainly appreciate. This would then demonstrate the importance of the words of the Sforno. Lavan greeted Yaakov not based on the fact that they were related--instead, it was the fame attributed to Yaakov that ultimately enticed him. Therefore, we see from Yaakov the chachma used in this plan, chachma characterized by a good deal of confidence. This could only emerge from his knowledge of the true ideas of God and his ability to place his security in Him...

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