Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Miketz
To dedicate this lesson

The Truth in Dreams


Rabbi Berel Wein

Kislev 5768
Yosef’s dramatic ascent to power in Egypt is recorded for us in this week’s parsha. What is noteworthy that Yosef does not appear to be at all surprised or amazed by the sudden turn of events in his fortunes. A person who lives by dreams is never surprised when the dream turns into reality. Yosef always expected his dreams to come true in this world. So did his father Yaakov. And in truth so did the brothers and that is why he discomfited them so deeply. Had they felt the dreams of Yosef to be utter nonsense they would not have reacted as strongly to his relating them to them. They were threatened not because the dreams were nothing but rather because they were something. Their apparent blindness and stubbornness at not recognizing Yosef standing before them stemmed from their necessity to deny the validity of his dreams. When Yosef will reveal himself to his brothers they will instinctively believe him that he is Yosef because of the stock they subconsciously placed in his dreams all along. Practical people are afraid of dreamers not because of the dreamer’s impracticality but rather because the dreamer may turn out to be right after all. This has been proven time and again in Jewish history. The holiday of Chanukah that we are currently celebrating proves the dreams of the Maccabees overcame the practicalities of the Hellenist Jews who were willing to survive by becoming more Greek than Jewish. Jews over the ages could have reasonably quit and given up the struggle to survive as Jews countless times. It was always the dreamers that persevered and they have always been proven to be right and practical.
The Torah attributes the success of Yosef to the fact that he remembered his dreams. It is one thing to remember dreams of grandeur when one is poor and imprisoned. Then the dream provides hope and resilience to somehow continue. Yosef’s greatness lies in his ability to remember and believe those dreams when he has risen to power. He could easily have ignored his brothers and put all of his past behind him. He was now a great success so why continue to pursue his dreams which by so doing ultimately could sorely endanger his position and achievements. But Yosef doggedly pursues the full realization of his dreams. Many times in life we are frightened of advancing because we think we thereby risk what we already have. Judaism preaches caution in tactics and how to achieve certain goals, both spiritual and physical. But it never advocates compromising the great Jewish dreams as outlined in our Torah and tradition. We are bidden to be prudent about life decisions but the goal of ascending the ladder of Yaakov is never erased from our consciousness. When seeing his brothers before him, Yosef has the choice to leave them and him be as they and he are. But he chooses to pursue his dreams to their fateful end. That has become a lesson for all later generations of Jews as well. For only the full realization of Yosef’s dream is the catalyst for reuniting all of Israel as a nation.
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