Beit Midrash

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Big Dreams of Big People


Rabbi Yossef Carmel

We have already explained in the past that by telling his brothers his dreams of greatness, Yosef was actually proclaiming that not only was Yaakov grooming him to be the leader of the next generation, but Hashem also saw him as continuing the chain of the patriarchs. This is because all the dreams of Sefer Bereishit are prophetic and those having the dreams are people who possess power. The issues dreamed about have national implications, even if directly they are connected to an individual’s personal life.
The first example is the powerful and momentous dream that accompanied the Brit Bein Habetarim (Bereishit 15:11-18). After the procedure Avraham undertook involving animals he slaughtered as part of the covenant, Avraham fell asleep and was told about the exile of his offspring and their liberation and return to the Land. Avraham was a nasi (prince, leader) and Sarah was a princess of sorts, as her name indicates. They interacted on an ongoing basis with kings, and this prophecy related to the future of his descendants, as they emerged as a nation hundreds of years later.
In the next dream, Hashem appears to King Avimelech and warns him to stay away from Sarah and return her to her husband, Avraham. The dreamer is a king and the topic relates to a common practice of kings – abducting a woman that he desires. Yaakov’s dreams about the ladder, as he was leaving his homeland, and the one he had as the leader of the encampments returning home from Aram, dealt, as Chazal explain, with the rise and fall of empires over history. The Ba’al Haturim points out that the numerical value of "olim v’yordim bo" ([the angels were] going up and down on it [the ladder]) (Bereishit 28:12), is equal to the names, Bavel (Babylonia), Madai (Persia), Yavan (Greece), and Romi (Rome).
Even the dream of Lavan, at the end of Parashat Vayeitzei, is the dream of the leader of a camp. He was a leader in Aram, and he was in the midst of deciding the future of the relations between Aram and Israel. The dreams of the officers in Egypt, who were more than a simple baker and a simple butler (they were in charge of two important areas of the time’s superpower’s commerce (grains and water)), dealt with national issues. The dream’s outcome relates to the future dreams of Pharaoh about the famine in Egypt.
The conclusion to arrive at, which has implications for generations, is that the job of a prophet is to give guidance to help set the path of nations. They did not deal with private matters that affected the individual in his daily life. Therefore, whenever we see something that seems personal, we should look for the impact that it had on a much grander national scale.
May we merit a return of prophets to our nation to guide us in national and international affairs.
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