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Dreams or Reality?
By: SFW Students & Alumna
Meirah Freiden (SFW '09)
A recurring theme of dreams lies within this week's parsha, Miketz, and last week's parsha, Vayeshev. In Parshat Vayeshev Yosef has two dreams. In his first dream Yosef dreamt that he and his brothers were binding sheaves of straw and his sheaf stood up tall while his brothers' sheaves bowed down to his sheaf. In his second dream, which is similar to the previous dream, the sun, moon, and eleven stars bowed down to him. In Parshat Miketz, Pharaoh dreams of 7 weak skinny cows grazing in the field eating the grass that end up consuming 7 fat healthy cows without gaining any weight. In his second dream there are 7 thin weak ears of grain that consume 7 full ears of grain.
At first glance, it seems as though Yosef and Pharaoh have extremely similar dreams. However, when we take a closer look at the dreams there are two major differences between the dreams. Chazal teach that Yosef's dreams stem from the realm of holiness while Pharaoh's dreams lacked that factor. Yosef's dream begins with an act of effort, an effort of gaining food, "we were binding sheaves". On the other hand, in Pharaoh's dream his food comes without effort, "they (the cows) fed in the reed-grass". In order for Hashem to bless us we must put forth some effort; Hashem will not just give to us if we stand still doing nothing. Our efforts open up a pathway through which Hashem will help us and bless us. With energy and effort we are able to become partners with Hashem. That which comes without effort is worthless. This holds true in our modern lives. It happens to be that whatever we work hardest on is really where we receive the most benefit.
The second difference between the dreams is that Yosef's dream progresses from the lower to the higher- from sheaves of wheat to the cosmic. Conversely, Pharaoh's dreams are in reverse order- from animals to ears of grain. Yosef's dreams portray growth while Pharaoh's denote decline.
Yosef gained the right to interpret the dreams throughout the parshiot because of his level of morality. Yosef remained with G-d in the household of Potiphar even when Potiphar's wife tried to seduce him. When he was locked in prison, Yosef never gave up hope. One of Judaism's goals in this world is Tikun Olam- fixing the world. Yosef was ready and willing to fulfill this mission by leading Egypt. Yosef spent his time interpreting other people's dreams like the butler's, the baker's, and Pharaoh's. Pharaoh, on the other hand, involved himself in interpreting his own dreams instead of looking out for others. Yosef was giving the job of Tikun Olam because he, as opposed to Pharaoh who was solely concerned with his own well-being, had the moral sensitivity to help out everyone around him. Yosef made himself deserving of the words of G-d by exerting effort to help others around him.
Parshat Miketz usually falls out over Chanukah. What is the connection between this parsha and the holiday of Chanukah? When you read about Pharaoh's dream you see a parallel to the war of the Jews and the Greeks. Just as the skinny cows were able to devour the fat cows, the small nation of the Jews were able to defeat the enormous army of the Greeks. We actually see this sort of thing happen numerous times throughout history- where the Jews defeat the odds and win in battle. In the 1948 and 1967 wars the odds were against the Jews; yet the small army of the Jews was able to conquer the countless Arab armies from bordering countries. People are still studying and pondering over how the Jews were able to win in the 1967 war- it seemed an impossible task. Yet, it was not impossible because, just as in the war of Chanukah, we had Hashem on our side. The reason the Jewish people are the longest surviving nation is because Hashem has not allowed our light to perish just like He wouldn't let it perish in the Beit Hamikdash during the times of Chanukah. Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach!
1: Parshat Shavua