ABSTRACT: A Rock, a Stone and a Seat that Moses sat on

Sidra, 2 (1986), pp. 15-23  Meir Bar-Ilan


The aim of the paper is to discuss some legendary material in the Babylonian Talmud Ber. 54a.

The paper begins with the Halakhah requiring that a blessing be recited upon seeing the stone, upon which Moses sat during the battle Joshua led against the Amalekites (Exodus 17:12), to recite a blessing. Interweaving legend, law, and folk traditions concerning the reverence shown for the seats of Moses and of other great men over the generations in different cultures and down to our own times, the paper shows how the sanctity, the wisdom, or the sovereignty of the one who sat on the stone are often transferred to the stone itself or associated with it, transforming it into a symbol of these qualities.

Thus the stone "Moses' cathedra" found in some synagogues of the period of the Mishna and the Talmud may have served as the judge's seat in those times, as a symbol of his authority going back to Moses.

It is suggested that the requirement to praise God in a blessing upon seeing Moses' stone (at Sinai) may have been designed to prevent the kind of idolatrous, superstitious or fetishistic rites carried out by some peoples in association with sacred stones.