“Early in the morning, Yaakov took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it” (Genesis 28:18)
“Moshe then wrote down all the commandments of the Lord. Early in the morning, he set up an altar at the foot of the mountain, with twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel” (Exodus 24:4)
The Ibn Ezra wrote (on Genesis 28:17) “And many will wonder how it is that Yaakov built a pillar, forgetting that Moshe built 12 pillars. The Scriptures did not forbid the building of pillars for G-d, it only said ‘do not build for yourself a pillar which your Lord, G-d, hates’.”
The Ibn Ezra, as is his way, does not consider the medrashim and interprets the Scriptural text in its plain sense, disagreeing with the Sifri (Deuteronomy 146) who forbade the building of pillars, even to G-d. “Do not build for yourself a pillar, etc., the pillar which he loved from the fathers he hated from the sons…” We learned something new, that the sons are only from Joshua’s generation on.
Thus the Rambam ruled in The Laws of Idolatry, chapter 6, halacha 6, “The pillar which the Torah forbade is a building to which all gather, even if it is to worship G-d, for this was the way of the idolaters, as it says, ‘do not build a pillar’.”
And the Ramban (Genesis 6:5) on the verse “since Avraham listened to my voice and kept my watch, my commandments and my laws and my Torah,” which Rashi interpreted as meaning that Avraham kept the whole Torah, including the Oral Law, wondered: “And one must ask, if so, how is it that Yaakov built a pillar and married two sisters (which is incest), etc., and Moshe Rabbeynu built 12 pillars etc., it seems to me from our rabbis’ opinion that Avraham learned the whole Torah through the Divine Spirit, etc., and kept it all as one who is not commanded to. His doing and keeping was only in the Land, and the pillar [which Yaakov built in the Land, in Beit El] is a commandment which was renewed at a specific time, as they commented on ‘which your Lord, G-d, hates,’ he hated it after he had loved it during the time of the fathers.”
In Deuteronomy 16:22 the Ramban wrote, “And do not build for yourself a pillar, and this He hated, for there was a rule by the Canaanites, and even though he loved it during the times of the fathers he now hated it, etc., but I have not understood the law, as the Canaanites worships idols at both altars and pillars, etc,. [and what is the difference between pillars and altars?] It seems to me…The honored G-d hated and was disgusted by all their acts and forbade the pillar and the grove and left only the altar, which was needed for the sacrifices, etc.”
Look well at what is written here. The holy one, blessed be He, with whom the Torah was before the creation of the world, what was His opinion? Was the pillar loved by Him or hated? This is G-d, who recognizes and knows and looks and sees from the beginning of time to its end, with whom truth does not change according to the times, as is the case with people. Has He changed His mind because of the Canaanites’ actions and forbade us for all generations something that He loves? Did He not know, even before the creation of the world, what the Canaanites would do? And if He knew, why did He not forbid pillars in the first place? And if the Creator of the world loves pillars, why did He void His will before the acts of the Canaanites and not permit the pillars as He permitted the altars?
And today, now that the Canaanites have disappeared along with their acts of idolatry on pillars, perhaps we should return to the acts of our fathers, which are a sign for the sons, and once again build pillars which, according to all the commentaries, G-d greatly loved?
In general we will ask: Why is it always “the Canaanites” and “pillars” and such? Why does the Torah always deal only with acts and customs and nations of its own days? The eternal and Divine Torah has no mention or hint of anything that will happen to us in these crazy times. Idol worship? Animal sacrifices? Plowing with a yoked ox and donkey? A stake with which to dig outside the encampment? What has this to do with us? Where are the true words of Torah — about us, our actions, and our world? About permissiveness, media, secularism, democracy? There is no plain and clear word about our times and how to act therein. But we have full detail about pillars and Canaanites and altars and Gergashites, shepherds and desert wanderers. What have they to do with our lives? And if all the generations are before the holy one, blessed be He, until this very day, why does He, in His eternal Torah written before the creation of the world as brought in Breishit Rabbah (Vilna), parsha 8, “Rabbi Shimon the son of Lachish said: The Torah preceded the creation of the world by two thousand years,” deal only with the Jebusites, the Knizites, the pitiful tribal dust-ups and nothing more? There isn’t a single clear word about later generations.
We will also add that the Ramban, in his introduction to the commentary on the Torah, wrote, “And the reason for the writing of the Torah in this language is because the Torah preceded the creation of the world and, it is unnecessary to add, the birth of Moshe Rabbeynu. As is brought in the Kabbalah, it was written in black fire upon white fire, and Moshe is as a scribe copying an ancient book and writing.” We may ask what Moshe, who built 12 pillars and had read the verse “do not build for yourself a pillar which your Lord, G-d, hates,” thought.
Understand the matter well. It is inconceivable that there would be a change in the Divine truth. If there is a change, it is not from G-d, but was written by flesh and blood, subject to changing times and changing worldviews of people. One generation goes and another generation comes, and understanding and beliefs change so much as to be unrecognizable. The generation which wrote about the beloved pillars is not the generation which forbade the despised pillars.
This is proof for our words: the prohibition against building a pillar is written in the book of Deuteronomy which, according to all Bible critics, was written at a later period, a period in which they went to battle against pillars, while the stories of Genesis were told and written long before. This is testimony that G-d did not write it nor was it given at Sinai; it was written by people over the course of many hundreds of years.
Words of True Knowledge.