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Who We Tell Our Dreams To #757

12/16/2022 06:06:05 PM


Rabbi Irwin Huberman

Parashat Vayeshev:
"And the brothers hated him even more for his talk about his dreams." (Genesis 37:8)

Who We Tell Our Dreams To

Have you ever had a dream so vivid, that it seemed like a real recollection of the past, or a premonition of the future?

There are some dreams which seem so real, they remain with us—for a lifetime.  I must have been about 18 when I experienced a dream like that. I recall perishing in the woods, shot during World War II.

In that moment before the fatal bullet hit me, I remember thinking, “All the days of my life end here.” It was powerful, and it has stayed with me to this day.

These days we live in a very rationale world. Tell someone about a dream you’re had, and they often listen uneasily, or brush it off.

But Judaism has a tremendous respect for dreams. The Zohar—our most revered mystical text—notes that our dreams reflect “both this side and that.”

The kabbalah adds that dreams reflect “one sixtieth” truth.

It adds, “When people are lying in their beds asleep, the soul leaves them, as it is written, ‘as they sleep upon their bed, God uncovers human ears…and leaves His signature.” (Job 33:15-17)

Often, when we awaken, certain images remain with us to consider and to sometimes share with others. The idea of dreams plays a major part in this week’s Torah reading. We are introduced to Joseph as a teenager.

He is brash, perhaps gifted. He may even be arrogant, but no one can dispute that he is a remarkable interpreter of dreams. As this week’s parashah opens, our patriarch, Jacob, is in the land of Canaan, known today as Israel.

His son Joseph, 17, is a shepherd who works alongside his brothers. The story of how Jacob gifted Joseph—his favorite—a coat of many colors has been told many times—from Bible to Broadway.

But we also learn—this week—that Joseph is a bit of a snitch. He delivers “bad reports” to his father about his half-brothers—sons of Rachel and Leah’s handmaids, Bilhah and Zilpah.

The fact that Joseph is favored and is a tattle tale, causes his brothers’ anger to simmer. But what comes off of Joseph’s lips, as he shares two dreams, causes them to act.

Joseph tells his older brothers that one day they will serve him. He shares a vision of his sheaf of grain standing upright while his brothers’ sheaves bow down to him.”

And there is more.

Joseph shares a second dream, where the sun, moon and 11 stars (the number of his brothers) again “bow down” to him. The dye is cast.

The offended brothers retaliate, toss him into a pit, and tell Jacob that his treasured son is dead.

This sets off a series of events: Joseph is rescued, sold into Egyptian slavery and thrown in jail, where because of his ability to interpret dreams, he impresses the Pharaoh and eventually becomes the country’s prime minister.

At the core of this amazing story is our tradition’s respect for dreams. 

With his youthful arrogance, Joseph initially shares visions of future glory with his resentful brothers. Later, having matured, he successfully interprets two of Pharaoh’s dreams.

The link between Joseph’s early and later dreams causes our mystics to ponder this question: “Who should we share our dreams with?”

The Zohar notes, “Joseph told his dreams to his brothers and they made the dream disappear…They hated him even more.” 

However, as an adult, Joseph’s offered a more careful interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams, predicting seven years of famine. This led to the creation of a national food-conservation plan.

Our mystics ponder the connection between Joseph’s early and later dreams, concluding, “That a person should share their dreams with one who loves them, otherwise the listener interferes, and the dream is transformed.”

Pharaoh may not have loved Joseph, but unlike Joseph’s brothers, he was willing to consider the interpretation. Which leads us to consider—who should we tell our dreams to?

We’ve all had dreams: our choice of career, where we choose to live, a place we’ve always wanted to visit, pursuit of our future spouse, a hobby, a talent, a life of more meaning. 

Who has been supportive and who has not? Who has encouraged us to follow our dreams, and who has discouraged us from moving forward?

As many of us have learned, there is not always a straight path from here to the realization of our dreams. But eventually, many of those dreams can come true.

Through the eyes of our mystics, our Torah portion affirms that dreams are integral to who we are.

Wed, February 21 2024 12 Adar I 5784