By Rav David Silverberg

We read in Parashat Vayetze of Yaakov’s famous dream which he dreamt as he slept along the road during his trip to Charan.  God appeared to Yaakov and promised to care for him during his period of exile, to eventually return him to his homeland, and that his descendants would inhabit the land: “…the land upon which you lie – I will give it to you and to your offspring” (28:13).

Rashi, citing the Gemara (Chulin 91b), comments, “The Almighty folded the entire Land of Israel underneath him, alluding to him that it would be easy for his descendants to capture it.”  On one level, of course, the Gemara makes this comment to explain the meaning of God’s promise to give to Yaakov and his offspring “the land upon which you lie.”  It might seem strange for God to make a promise concerning the small piece of territory where Yaakov slept.  Chazal therefore explained the God somehow “folded” the entire country underneath Yaakov at that moment, and thus all Eretz Yisrael was included in this promise.

The question, however, arises as to the significance of this image.  What might be the message of God’s “folding” the land underneath Yaakov?

The answer, perhaps, is that Chazal seek to teach us that we have within us far more potential than we recognize.  Yaakov slept on just a small piece of property that night, but the prophecy he received granted him rights and dominion over the entire land.  We often see ourselves limited to a very small “territory,” confined to limited capabilities and hence to limited achievements.  The Gemara here perhaps encourages us to see beyond our current standing, to recognize that there is more within us than we might think.  Even if we see ourselves occupying only a very small area, we have the capacity for more, as God tells Yaakov in the next verse, “You shall burst forth to the west, to the east, to the north and to the south.”  Rather than comfortably and complacently remaining confined to our current position, we are challenged to “burst forth,” to recognize that we are capable of far more than what we’ve already achieved, and it’s up to us to make the effort to realize our full potential.

Originally appears on VBM

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