Is this where Freud and Yung got their ideas from? Joseph is the king of dreams, and I am fascinated by what the people of long ago thought about the subject. Obviously, Joseph, his brothers, father and even Pharaoh who saw himself like G-d, all believed, in fact, in the power of the subconscious, and in dreams being a window into that world. They knew that there is “stuff” that our mind works out while we’re asleep, and that sleep is not entirely inactive (they probably didn’t “dream” that one day we will invent something that can make us even more inactive than sleep…). Rather sleep is a place to go through our fears, hopes, deep desires, and at times, stam (just) nonsense we’ve absorbed from our days.
I love the fact that the both Torah and Talmud speak about dreams, and yet, are not entirely clear. How can we be clear on stuff we’re not supposed to know about?? On the one hand, the Talmud states that dreams are one-sixtieth of prophecy (Brachot 57b), but it also says that no dreams are without nonsense (55a), and most importantly, that the interpretation of a dream depends on the explanation given by the interpreter (55b). A dream therefore can have either a good or a bad interpretation. Much of what it will be depends on what we put in our heads initially, what we remember, who interprets, which interpretation we accept, and most important, what we choose to do about it.
One of my favorite stories is a much later Chasidic tale about Reb Isaac who dreamed of a treasure near the bridge buy the palace in a far away city. When the dream came back a 3rd time, Isaac finally decided to “shlep” over there. But when he got there after days of travel, the bridge was heavily guarded and he couldn’t get near. Finally, one of the officers noticed him and asked him what’s he doing. Isaac told him about the dream and the guard laughed: “You poor man, you traveled all this way for a dream? Why, if I believed a dream I once had, I would travel back to the village where you came from and look for a treasure under the house of some man named Reb Isaac”… Isaac thanked him and traveled back home, realizing the treasure was there all along and at the same time knowing, he would have never found it had he not listened to his dream and gone on his journey (Paulo Coelho used that same story as the base for his Alchemist book-).
The story of Joseph is always read around Hanukkah. Both periods look especially dark and gloomy in history (Joseph’s time and the historical story of Hanukkah), but we are taught that davka (especially) when it’s dark and gloomy, an unexpected light begins to shine. Rav Kook spoke about a flower sprouting from a seed that must first rot in the depth of the earth, a process which might not be pretty or comfortable. In Hebrew, shachor – is “black” but shachar, which comes from the very same root, already means “dawn”, as if inside the darkness there is the potential for a new beginning, a hope, a light. This light might be obvious, or first just hinted in a dream.
Here’s to sweet dreams. Shabbat Shalom & Happy Hanukkah.