p. 289 p. 290
RABBI JEHUDA, whilst staying at an inn in the town of Masheya, rose up at midnight in order to meditate and study the secret doctrine. In the same apartment there happened to be sleeping a Jewish merchant who had come thither to dispose of two bales of wearing apparel.72a Said Rabbi Jehuda: "It is written, 'and this stone which I have set for a pillar shall be God's house (Beth Alhim).' The stone here mentioned is the foundation stone at the center of the world, and also on it the sanctuary was built."
The merchant on bearing these words raised himself from his Led. and said: "What you have just observed is an impossibility, for this foundation stone existed before the creation of the world and the origin of it. Now the words, 'And this stone which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God's house' refer distinctly to the particular stone that Jacob then set up, and to none other. More than this, it is said, 'And took the stone that he had put for his pillow and set it up for a pillar.' But Jacob was then in Bethel; how could this stone therefore be one and the same with that at Jerusalem on which the sanctuary was built!"
Without taking any notice of the merchant's remarks and question, Rabbi Jehuda, proceeded: "It is written said he, 'Prepare to meet thy God, oh Israel' (Amos IV. 12) 'Take heed and hearken, oh Israel' (Deuter. XXVII. 9), teaching us that the study of the secret doctrine claims and demands from those who engage therein, both a thoughtful mind and a reverent spirit."
On hearing these words, the merchant instantly arose and putting on his garments sat down by the side of Rabbi Jehuda and said: "Blessed are the righteous who study and meditate on the secret doctrine, day and night."
Said Rabbi Jehuda: "Whilst thou finishest dressing thyself, repeat to me the objections to which thou hast given utterance, that we may calmly, thoughtfully and reverently discuss them. Because so, I rose from my bed to engage in its study with earnestness and attention. We are taught that the Schekina associates with anyone who is an earnest student of truth even though he be alone and far remote from his fellows. Knowing this, how could I remain in bed while sensing the presence of the divine Schekina, and knowing also that the Holy One walks in the garden of the celestial Eden with the righteous who listen attentively to the words and meditations of those who rise at midnight and devote themselves to the study of the law until the dawn of day. Repeat now I pray thee thy objections and questions."
Said the merchant: "My question was this, How can you truly affirm that the foundation stone at the center of the world and forming the base of the sanctuary at Jerusalem was one and the same as that which Jacob used as a pillow and afterwards set it up as a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He was at Bethel and the foundation stone was in Jerusalem, so that your affirmation respecting it was an inexactitude.