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Parashat Vayeshev

December 16, 2022
22 Kislev 5783
Genesis 37:1 - 40:23

Dear Friends,

Dream on/ Dream on / Dream on
Dream until your dreams come true
- Steven Tyler (Aerosmith)

Dreams are ephemeral. We wake up remembering glimpses; then for most of us, our dreams disappear, leaving behind a faint whisper of something usually inexplicable.

This week’s Torah portion Vayeshev, "and he settled" (Genesis 37:1 - 40:23), is filled with dreams and their interpretations. We have the beginning of Joseph’s amazing transformation from callow youth to a man of faith. Joseph becomes quite proficient by the end of this Torah portion and the beginning of the next as he interprets the dreams of the cup bearer and the baker. He goes on to interpret Pharoah's dreams in next week’s Torah portion.

In the ancient world, dreams were taken quite seriously. However, that doesn’t mean that they were fully understood. The Talmud tells us that a dream is one-sixtieth of prophecy (Berakhot 57b). But the trouble with dreams is, they require interpretation. And there are few interpreters like Joseph.

How are we to understand what goes on around us? Who do we listen to and what do we see? This is even more true with our dreams, where we are confronted with the things that trouble us, the problems we try to solve, and meeting or reconnecting with people who are part of our waking lives. It is difficult enough to be present when we are awake.

Dreams do matter, though. Dreams are often aligned with that which we hope for -- our wishes. They can give us an opportunity to work out the things that frighten us if we wake up remembering.

Jacob has a dream of being in the presence of the Divine, Laban has a dream warning him not to harm Jacob, and Joseph, unlike his father or grandfather shares his dreams with others. Joseph's dreams seemingly make him the most important figure. He does not understand how his dreams will be understood and the impact that will have upon him. After all, he is only 17 after all.

My colleague Rabbi Greg Schindler wrote about the trouble with dreams this week as well. He ended his dvar Torah with the following thoughts. "What do we do about our own dreams? First of all, interpret them positively! Finally, you can even 'transform' your dreams. When the Kohanim perform the Priestly Blessing (on Festivals in the traditional liturgy), you say: 'Master of the Universe, I am Yours and my dreams are Yours. I have dreamed a dream but I do not know what it means … May you transform all my dreams about myself and all of Israel for goodness.' (Berakhot 55b)[2]”

We are about to celebrate Chanukah on Sunday night: the holiday of light and rededication. May we not only work to remember the dreams that we dream at night but also the ones that fill our days. May we see light where there is darkness, find joy where we can, and may we rededicate ourselves to act upon the dreams we have yet to fulfill -- dreams that allow us to see a path to a brighter future working with one another.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn

Fri, June 21 2024 15 Sivan 5784