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Friday, July 11, 2014

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I have a dream

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Most of us are aware that the Hebrew month of Kislev is significant, since the holiday of Chanukah falls in Kislev.

But there’s another significance to Kislev that’s connected to the Torah portions we read this month. Most of the dream narratives within the Torah are read within the month of Kislev. In fact, Kislev is the ninth month of the Jewish year, and nine dream narratives are read during the month, so it’s not surprising that Kislev is known as the month of dreams.

The dream sequences we read have to do with Joseph and his life transitions. In the beginning, Joseph is the dreamer who shares two of his dreams with his brothers and his father. The first dream involves himself and his brothers in the field working together binding sheaves. His brothers sheaves surround his and all bow down. When Joseph tells his brothers of this dream, we’re told that his brothers hate him immensely.

The second dream has 11 stars, the sun and the moon all bowing down to Joseph. This time, Joseph tells not only his brothers, but also his father. His father angrily admonishes Joseph and asks whether he expects his father and mother to bow down to him.

The midrash and commentaries raise the question of Jacob’s interpretation since Joseph’s mother, Rachel, has already died and, therefore, could not bow down to him. This opens the door to questioning whether Joseph’s dreams were not interpreted correctly. In the ancient world, bowing is not just a sign of respect, but also of welcoming. Perhaps Joseph’s dreams were his expression of wanting to work with his brothers together in the field and have them welcome him. In other words, does the message of the dream lie within the dream itself or within the interpretation?

Joseph quickly understands that the power lies within the interpretation, and he recreates himself as a dream interpreter while in an Egyptian prison. It’s this role of interpreter that will ultimately unlock doors of opportunity for Joseph.

In the Talmud and midrash, much attention is paid to dreams and the role they play in our lives. One part of the Talmud tells us that a dream left uninterpreted is like a letter left unopened. And yet, we’re to take great care with whom we share our dreams, for they may interpret them, and the interpretation gives them power.

According to the sages, if you’re worried about the meaning of your dream, you should gather three people together and, in their presence, give the dream a positive interpretation. You should say to your friends, “I saw a good dream” and they should respond with affirming that it’s indeed good and that God should turn everything within it toward the good and positive.

Interpreting our dreams toward the positive is a wonderful way to teach ourselves that we’re the masters of our perspectives in everything we do. During the month of Kislev we can spend a moment talking to our friends, interpreting and praying that all our dreams come true.

Rachael Turkienicz is director of Rachaelscentre.org.

 

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