With recent world health mayhem, you’d think the streets would be empty, but no. On a crowded city bus, a young Arab mother in traditional clothing with baby in stroller and shopping bags, strikes a conversation with an older religious Jewish couple, a face brightening when she finds out they speak her language. The conversation continues to flow and the bus continues to fill as it stops-and-goes through the jammed streets, packed with tourists, groups and giant tour buses. The Arab lady bids the couple farewell, getting up to give her seat to an older Jewish woman, and makes her way to the door. At her stop, she struggles with the stroller and bags. The stroller gets stuck between the bus’s back door and the curb; the driver is trying to close the door and leave. Hallo, Hallo! yell two angry yeshiva students and a secular couple who rush to aid the Arab lady and her baby to safety. It’s a Thursday afternoon in Jerusalem.
Elections day. If it wasn’t funny, I’d say, we are eagerly waiting for the next one. What’s not to like? A sunny Monday off. In the US it’s been figured out long ago: MLK, Presidents’, Memorial and others, almost monthly, not to mention Sundays. And suddenly, we got it too: no need to schvitz in the sukkah; hurry to shul to not miss the shofar; eat crumbling matzah or recover from an all-night learning. We were just “normal people” having a national holiday. And the weather! Wow. It was fantastic. We couldn’t even get a seat for a late lunch of chumus on the beach, because the line was so long. There were gliders. And surfers. And swimmers. The boardwalk was packed. People in different languages, garments; anything from bathing-suits to kippot to galabiehs and more. We could do this more often, much more often. Only maybe for a different reason.
Seriously, is it just me, or is it so obvious? If aliens landed here, I don’t think they’d be able to tell the two candidates apart: Similar ages. Looks. Even same fist name! Proud IDF background. And, both behaving like two-year-old in the sandbox fighting over a piece of a thing instead of a thing called peace. And health. Yes, somehow in my mind, all this and the fact that people “don’t have discipline” and don’t sufficiently listen to the health ministry’s instructions to be “respectful” of the law and the public, are related. Please do model the same care you want to see. Then maybe we’ll have our own B. Monday we can celebrate yearly.
Siyum Tractate Brachot
Recently I overheard someone discuss what they’d take into “quarantine” (how fast we go from bizarre to noraml??). G-d forbid, if I find myself in isolation, this is The book (ok, one of The books) I want with me, especially the last chapter. Here are just a few (very few) “appetizers” that appear in our core writings book (pages 55-57):
שְׁמוּאֵל כִּי הֲוָה חָזֵי חֶלְמָא בִּישָׁא אָמַר: ״וַחֲלֹמוֹת הַשָּׁוְא יְדַבֵּרוּ״. כִּי הֲוָה חָזֵי חֶלְמָא טָבָא אָמַר: וְכִי הַחֲלוֹמוֹת הַשָּׁוְא יְדַבֵּרוּ? וְהָכְתִיב ״בַּחֲלוֹם אֲדַבֶּר בּוֹ״!
Shmuel, when he would see a bad dream, would say: “And the dreams speak falsely” (Zechariah 10:2). When he would see a good dream, he would say: And do dreams speak falsely? Isn’t it written: “I speak with him in a dream” (Numbers 12:6)?….
Shmuel uses the same verse as a proof text, once with a question mark and once without; both work. What do we know about dreams? Yes. Are they real or false? Yes. Does the interpretation matter or do they stand on their own? Yes. Do they mean anything or are they just a bunch of nonsense? Are they impact by our daily life or are they pure prophecies? Yes and yes.
אָמַר רַבִּי בִּיזְנָא בַּר זַבְדָּא אָמַר רַבִּי עֲקִיבָא אָמַר רַבִּי פַּנְדָּא אָמַר רַב נַחוּם אָמַר רַבִּי בִּירִים מִשּׁוּם זָקֵן אֶחָד, וּמַנּוּ — רַבִּי בְּנָאָה: עֶשְׂרִים וְאַרְבָּעָה פּוֹתְרֵי חֲלוֹמוֹת הָיוּ בִּירוּשָׁלַיִם, פַּעַם אַחַת חָלַמְתִּי חֲלוֹם וְהָלַכְתִּי אֵצֶל כּוּלָּם, וּמַה שֶּׁפָּתַר לִי זֶה לֹא פָּתַר לִי זֶה, וְכוּלָּם נִתְקַיְּימוּ בִּי. לְקַיֵּים מַה שֶּׁנֶּאֱמַר: ״כׇּל הַחֲלוֹמוֹת הוֹלְכִים אַחַר הַפֶּה״.
In a long chain of those transmitting this statement, it is said that Rabbi Bizna bar Zavda said that Rabbi Akiva said that Rabbi Panda said that Rav Naḥum said that Rabbi Birayim said in the name of one elder, and who is he, Rabbi Bena’a: There were twenty-four interpreters of dreams in Jerusalem. One time, I dreamed a dream and went to each of them to interpret it. What one interpreted for me the other did not interpret for me, and, nevertheless, all of the interpretations were realized in me, to fulfill that which is stated: All dreams follow the mouth of the interpreter.
אָמַר רַבִּי יוֹחָנָן: הִשְׁכִּים וְנָפַל לוֹ פָּסוּק לְתוֹךְ פִּיו, הֲרֵי זוֹ נְבוּאָה קְטַנָּה.
With regard to the veracity of dreams, Rabbi Yoḥanan said: One who awakened in the morning and a specific verse happens into his mouth, it is a minor prophecy and an indication that the content of the verse will be fulfilled.
אָמַר רַבִּי שְׁמוּאֵל בַּר נַחְמָנִי אָמַר רַבִּי יוֹנָתָן: אֵין מַרְאִין לוֹ לְאָדָם אֶלָּא מֵהִרְהוּרֵי לִבּוֹ. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: ״אַנְתְּ מַלְכָּא רַעְיוֹנָךְ עַל מִשְׁכְּבָךְ סְלִקוּ״. וְאִיבָּעֵית אֵימָא מֵהָכָא: ״וְרַעְיוֹנֵי לִבְבָךְ תִּנְדַּע״? — אָמַר רָבָא: תֵּדַע, דְּלָא מַחֲווּ לֵיהּ לְאִינִשׁ לָא דִּקְלָא דְּדַהֲבָא וְלָא פִּילָא דְּעָיֵיל בְּקוֹפָא דְמַחְטָא.
Rabbi Shmuel bar Naḥmani said that Rabbi Yonatan said: A person is shown in his dream only the thoughts of his heart when he was awake, as evidenced by what Daniel said to Nebuchadnezzar, as it is stated: “As for you, O king, your thoughts came upon your bed, what should come to pass hereafter” (Daniel 2:29). And if you wish, say instead that it is derived from here, a related verse: “And that you may know the thoughts of your heart” (Daniel 2:30). How will you know the thoughts of your heart? By their being revealed to you in a dream. Rava said: Know that this is the case, for one is neither shown a golden palm tree nor an elephant going through the eye of a needle in a dream (we can’t dream of things we have no image for).
אֲמַר לֵיהּ קֵיסָר לְרַבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בְּרַבִּי חֲנַנְיָא: אָמְרִיתוּ דְּחָכְמִיתוּ טוּבָא, אֵימָא לִי מַאי חָזֵינָא בְּחֶלְמַאי. אֲמַר לֵיהּ: חָזֵית דִּמְשַׁחֲרִי לָךְ פָּרְסָאֵי וְגָרְבִי בָּךְ, וְרָעֲיִי בָּךְ שִׁקְצֵי בְּחוּטְרָא דְּדַהֲבָא. הַרְהַר כּוּלֵּיהּ יוֹמָא, וּלְאוּרְתָּא חֲזָא. אֲמַר לֵיהּ שַׁבּוּר מַלְכָּא, לִשְׁמוּאֵל: אָמְרִיתוּ דְּחָכְמִיתוּ טוּבָא, אֵימָא לִי מַאי חָזֵינָא בְּחֶלְמַאי. אֲמַר לֵיהּ: חָזֵית דְּאָתוּ רוֹמָאֵי וְשָׁבוּ לָךְ, וְטָחֲנִי בָּךְ קַשְׁיָיתָא בְּרִחְיָיא דְּדַהֲבָא. הַרְהַר כּוּלֵּיהּ יוֹמָא, וּלְאוּרְתָּא חֲזָא.
On a similar note, the Gemara relates that the Roman emperor said to Rabbi Yehoshua, son of Rabbi Ḥananya: You Jews say that you are extremely wise. If that is so, tell me what I will see in my dream. Rabbi Yehoshua said to him: You will see the Persians capture you, and enslave you, and force you to herd unclean animals with a golden staff. He thought the entire day about those images and that night he saw it in his dream. King Shapur of Persia said to Shmuel: You Jews say that you are extremely wise. If that is so, tell me what I will see in my dream. Shmuel said to him: You will see the Romans come and take you into captivity and force you to grind date pits in mills of gold. He thought the entire day about those images, and that night he saw it in his dream.
And does money matter in dreams?? Abaye and Rava tell what happened to them:
בַּר הֶדְיָא מְפַשַּׁר חֶלְמֵי הֲוָה. מַאן דְּיָהֵיב לֵיהּ אַגְרָא — מְפַשַּׁר לֵיהּ לִמְעַלְּיוּתָא, וּמַאן דְּלָא יָהֵיב לֵיהּ אַגְרָא — מְפַשַּׁר לֵיהּ לִגְרִיעוּתָא. אַבָּיֵי וְרָבָא חֲזוֹ חֶלְמָא. אַבָּיֵי יְהֵיב לֵיהּ זוּזָא, וְרָבָא לָא יְהֵיב לֵיהּ. אָמְרִי לֵיהּ: אַקְרִינַן בְּחֶלְמִין ״שׁוֹרְךָ טָבוּחַ לְעֵינֶיךָ וְגוֹ׳״. לְרָבָא אֲמַר לֵיהּ: פָּסֵיד עִסְקָךְ וְלָא אַהֲנִי לָךְ לְמֵיכַל מֵעוּצְבָּא דְּלִבָּךְ. לְאַבָּיֵי אֲמַר לֵיהּ: מַרְוַוח עִסְקָךְ וְלָא אַהֲנִי לָךְ לְמֵיכַל מֵחֶדְוָא דְּלִבָּךְ.
The Gemara relates: Bar Haddaya was an interpreter of dreams. For one who gave him a fee, he would interpret the dream favorably, and for one who did not give him a fee, he would interpret the dream unfavorably. The Gemara relates: There was an incident in which both Abaye and Rava saw an identical dream and they asked bar Haddaya to interpret it. Abaye gave him money and paid his fee, while Rava did not give him money. They said to him: The verse: “Your ox shall be slain before your eyes and you shall not eat thereof” (Deuteronomy 28:31) was read to us in our dream. He interpreted their dream and to Rava he said: Your business will be lost and you will derive no pleasure from eating because of the extreme sadness of your heart. To Abaye he said: Your business will profit and you will be unable to eat due to the joy in your heart….
And here’s by far, one of the very craziest moments in this exchange. There is a long list which could appear in any “Dreams” book: if you dream about xyz, it means… As you struggle through it, slightly shocked from details and insight, you come across this:
הָרוֹאֶה אַוּוֹז בַּחֲלוֹם — יְצַפֶּה לְחׇכְמָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: ״חׇכְמוֹת בַּחוּץ תָּרֹנָּה״. וְהַבָּא עָלֶיהָ הָוֵי רֹאשׁ יְשִׁיבָה.
אָמַר רַב אָשֵׁי: אֲנִי רְאִיתִיהָ, וּבָאתִי עָלֶיהָ, וּסְלֵקִית לִגְדוּלָּה.
One who sees a goose in a dream should anticipate wisdom, as it is stated: “Wisdoms cry aloud in the streets, she utters her voice in the broad places” (Proverbs 1:20); geese tend to sound their voices. One who dreams that he has relations with the goose will become head of the yeshiva. Rav Ashi said: I saw a goose and had relations with it in my dream and I ascended to greatness and became head of the yeshiva.
Rav Ashi, what are you saying?? Is bestiality suddenly ok? What’s going on? But maybe they knew the line between imagination and reality; between metaphor and action; between what shows up in the subconscious and what one does. They were not afraid to talk about it, to go all the way to the edge of mental possibilities, touch it, and come safely back.