In the Talmud, Rav Hisda is quoted as saying that “a dream not interpreted is like a letter not read”. Well, in Mikeitz, the letter is read. Joseph achieves power on the strength of his ability to interpret dreams for Pharaoh. He rises to great power, assimilates into Egyptian culture, habits, dress and marriage, and in doing so, sets the stage for next week’s “reveal”. In the meantime there is a powerful encounter with his brothers, now thrown into Egypt due to famine, an encounter that mirrors deception and maybe revenge?
But back to the dream. It is quite interesting to see the dream motif played out again. Joseph’s father, Jacob, dreamed his ladder and the notion of how dreams play out in Torah and, indeed our tradition is an interesting subject. You may be surprised to know that there is an actual ritual (hatovat chalom) that you can do in case you have a bad dream.
But I was wondering, as I looked at this portion, about us. As we get older, what do we dream of? The dreams of the young get much press. But, do we stop “dreaming” when, or, as we age? Some commentators saw dreams as our unconscious speaking to us (yes, before Freud) or perhaps an intimation of prophecy. Yet, as we deal with the reality of time, about futures that seem more finite, what do we dream of? Is it health, or longer life? Is it an escape from pain and suffering? Could it be what our legacy will be or a hope for a life that is not lived alone? And as we dream (or if) then the obvious question: how do we actualize that dream? And what of those who “have stopped dreaming”? What a shame to live without a thought of a tomorrow or our place in it?
Maybe this passage can shed light on the hoe that no matter what age we are, as long as we have life, we can have dreams and as long as we have them, we can hope for the courage to see them realized.
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.