The Torah tells us that the well in Charan had a rock covering it that was so heavy that it required all the shepherds to remove it.

After they were done they returned the rock.

It would seem that they were guarding the well that nobody used the water unless everybody was there, to ensure fair use.

How then did Yaakov remove the rock and water Lavan's sheep? Who gave him permission to use the water and to remove the rock before everybody had gathered?

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    Note that they did not object. It was a matter of actually being physically unable to do so. Otherwise the three (see pasuk) groups of shepherds would have actually done so and started the process of watering the sheep. It appears that everyone was arriving at that time. – sabbahillel Nov 27 '17 at 13:34
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    Why assume the reason they waited was "fair use"? The text doesn't say anything about that. According to the shepherds, they didn't lift the stone simply because they couldn't. If you are wondering why they returned the rock to its place, that they could have simply done for safety. – Dov F Nov 27 '17 at 22:11
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    @DovF - that's a good answer! and the Midrash Hagadol says so: the rock was there for safety reasons. – Danny Schoemann Nov 28 '17 at 12:04

According to Siftei Chachomim's understanding of Rashi the shepherds explained that it was solely the weight of the stone that prevented them from giving any water to drink, not any agreement or restriction on the use of the water.

  • Add to that the Midrash Hagadol that says: the rock was there for safety reasons and you have an answer I'll accept. – Danny Schoemann Nov 29 '17 at 12:35

No source, but maybe Rachel was the last shepherd to arrive, so it was time to take it off anyway. He just did it for them. The impressive part is that he did it by himself when it usually took the combined effort of all the shepherds.

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    to add a source: נ"ל לא מחסרון כח כי היו שם שלשה עדרי צאן, והוא רחוק שיעשה יעקב לבדו מה שלא יכלו שלשה אנשים, אבל אמרו לא נוכל מפני התנאי שהתנו ביניהם, שלא יהיה רשות לאחד מן העדרים להשתמש ממימי הבאר בהיותו לבדו. והנה יעקב אולי שאל אם נשארו עדרים אחרים לבא ואמרו לו שלא נשאר אלא עדר רחל, sefaria.org/Genesis.29.8?lang=bi&with=Shadal&lang2=en – user15253 Nov 27 '17 at 15:17
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    and further there (my thoughts, see comment on q) . ואף אם לא שאל אם נשארו עדרים אחרים שלא באו, הנה הוא לא היה מחוייב לשמור התנאי שהתנו ביניהם, – user15253 Nov 27 '17 at 15:18
  • @Orangesandlemons - this last comment of Shadal bothers me to the point that I just asked a question about it - No need to adhere to local custom? – Danny Schoemann Nov 28 '17 at 12:20
  • @DannySchoemann I think the intention is that it was an agreement among the shepherds - not that no-one else could make use of it, but just that they, the shepherds would not do so. – user15253 Nov 28 '17 at 12:22
  • @Orangesandlemons - then the question becomes can I obstruct public property in an attempt to create a group agreement?. (Since besides for Yaakov and Superman, their agreement affected everybody.) – Danny Schoemann Nov 28 '17 at 12:24

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