Dreams. All of us have dreamsin some way, shape, or form. Some of us may daydream, others dream at night, but we all have dreams. The greatest challenge is whether or not we remember our dreams, and when we do remember them, what do we do with them?
In our reading last week of Parashat Vayeishev we have already encountered Joseph the dreamer. At 17 he dreams about his brothers’ sheaves bowing down to his and about his sun, moon, and eleven stars—his parents and brothers—also bowing to him. These dreams anger his brothers and make Jacob suspicious.
We all know the story and I would suggest you read every parasha every week, but Parashat Miketz this week excites us every time we read it. There is nothing in all of literature more breathtaking than Genesis 42:23-24 when the brothers were brought before Joseph and they did not know that he understood them and “He turned away from them and wept.”
Returning to the interpretations, the Hebrew verb “hear” is tishmah. It derives from the root shema, meaning not only “hear” but also “comprehend” or “understand”. Joseph does more than offer interpretations. Psychologist Dorothy F. Zeligs, in her well-known study of Joseph’s personality, calls attention to the fact that he also presents Pharaoh with “a plan.” Grain is to be stored throughout the land during the plentiful harvest to provide for years of famine. Zeligs notes that Joseph the dreamer, shows himself to be a man of action. Joseph uses his very real abilities and his capacity for hard work to consolidate his position. His achievements therefore cannot be said to be based solely on fortuitous circumstances. For the rest of his life, Joseph remains in Pharaoh’s favor. This is no small accomplishment when one considers the fickle moods of those mighty monarchs.
Other interpreters, including renowned Talmudist Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, also emphasize that Joseph was not just an interpreter of dreams but a person of action. Rather than procrastinating, he developed solutions to the impending problems. He did not lose time in implementing his design for saving the country from disaster. He planned and built storage cities, and organized a system for collecting the produce during the years of plenty.
Joseph’s greatness, according to our interpreters, was not only that he developed a “sensitive ear,” an ability to listen to what others were saying, but that he was also ready to assume responsibility for transforming dreams into reality. Pharaoh sensed Joseph’s leadership qualities, and therefore, immediately told him, “You shall be in charge of my court, and by your command shall all my people be directed….”
It was a wise decision, for Joseph brought things to fruition. He was not just a dreamer. He willingly used his skills for turning Pharaoh’s dreams into a strategy for survival. We can learn from Joseph, too. We need to not only dream, but take our dreams at CSI and in life and make them a reality. I was so inspired by our amazing Lots of Latkes Dinner and Family Fun Night last night and look forward to more incredible programs like this in the future! Together we can grow and enhance our already wonderful community.
Shabbat Shalom and Happy Hanukkah!
Rabbi Jeffrey Abraham