Shabbat Parashat Miketz| 5764
Are Dreams Really Meaningless?Harav Yosef Carmel
During Yosef’s first meeting with his brothers, after such a long separation, the Torah stresses, “Yosef remembered the dreams which he dreamt about them” (Bereishit 42:9). The dreams’ impact on Yosef’s treatment of his brothers was very profound. Indeed, so had Yosef’s dreams molded the brothers’ image of him, as the Torah relates: “They continued to hate him for his dreams and for his words” (ibid. 37:8).
This point raises the question as to the status of dreams in the Torah’s eyes. Shlomo Hamelech shows little regard for dreams. He says: “For in a multitude of dreams and vanities and empty words …” (Kohelet 5:6). The navi, Zecharia, goes even further, saying: “… sorcerers see falsehood and dreams speak lies and comfort with the meaningless” (10:2). Chazal too, in context of Yirmiya’s mention of chaff with the kernel in reference to dreams, says: “Just as it is impossible for there to be a kernel without the chaff, so is it impossible for there to be a dream without irrelevant elements” (Berachot 55a).
If dreams are usually looked down upon and to be ignored, then those of Sefer Bereishit have a unique distinction and cannot be seen within the regular framework of dreams. Bereishit has the greatest number of dreams in all of Tanach. Their common denominator is that they are all prophetic dreams, whether those dreamt by our holy forefathers or those dreamt by gentiles.
Let us mention just a few of the examples of dreams that we find. Brit Bein Hab’tarim, which is perhaps the basis for the historical covenant between Hashem and Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael, occured as “a deep sleep fell on Avram” (Bereishit 15:12). Similarly, the great promises to Ya’akov in Beit El are classified as: “He dreamt, and there was a ladder …” (ibid. 28:12). Ya’akov received riches in the aftermath of his dreams about sheep. On the other side of the spectrum, Hashem warned Avimelech to stay away from our matriarchs and Lavan to stay away from our patriarch in prophetic dreams. Years after Yosef’s dreams, Paroh’s and his servants’ dreams enabled Yosef to show his worth, rise to power and, thereby, fulfill his own dreams. Finally, Ya’akov was reassured about his journey to Mitzrayim in a dream.
In summary, even those who raise doubts about dreams and say that they don’t make a difference (“lo ma’alin v’lo moridin”- Gittin 52a; Yerushalmi, Ma’aser Sheni 4:6) will agree that the dreams of Bereishit were of historic significance (and, in the case of Ya’akov’s angels, were literally “ma’aleh u’morid”).
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