Thursday, December 29, 2005

Parshat Miketz

Miketz 05
Who here has not woken one morning, head filled with a dream from the night before, thinking, "What a horrible dream," and just shuddered a bit, with a creeping superstitious feeling, hoping that it wouldn't come true. Throughout history, humans have shuddered or delighted in the visions that our minds have given us at night. And throughout history, humans hav believed in the power of dreams, that dreams hold the power to unlock the future for us.
The rabbis, too, stated that a dream is 1/60th of prophecy. The Torah portion of Miketz is enthralled with dreams. Pharaoh dreams of cows and and grain, and he sought someone to interpret his dreams for him. Strangely, though, even though he sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt, no one could help him, until the head cupbearer remembered the young servant who had correctly interpreted his dream and that of the head baker years before. Joseph is summoned and sure enough, does provide a dream interpretation that proves later to be perfectly correct.
In light of this, it is somewhat interesting to note that in a chapter of the talmud in which the rabbis extensively discuss dream interpretation, the end conclusion they give is that in fact, dreams are, as they are interpreted.
The midrash tells the story of
Midrash Rabbah - Genesis LXXXIX:8
A certain woman who went to R. Eliezer and said to him: ' I saw in a dream how that the loft of the upper storey of my house was split open.’ ‘You will conceive a son,’ he told her. She went away and it happened even so. Again she dreamed the same and came and told it to R. Eliezer, who gave her the same interpretation, and it happened even so. She dreamed this a third time and repaired to him but did not find him, so she told his disciples, ' I saw in a dream that the loft of the upper storey of my house was split open.’ ‘You will bury your husband,’ they told her, and this did happen. R. Eliezer, hearing a cry of wailing, asked what was amiss, whereupon they related to him what had occurred. ‘You have killed the man,’ he upbraided them; is it not written, AND IT CAME TO PASS, AS HE INTERPRETED TO US, SO IT WAS?
R. Johanan said: All dreams are dependent on the interpretation given to them, save a dream about wine. Sometimes a dream of drinking wine augurs well, and sometimes it betokens misfortune. When a scholar drinks [in a dream], it is a good augury; when an ignoramus drinks, it betokens misfortune.
Rabbi Yochanan's statement is an interesting response. It suggests that a dream interpretation is more natural than the sages stattement that it is 1/60th prophecy would seem to suggest: one whose life is in general in good order, one might expect to have a good outcome, whether or not they had a dream about it. Someone whose life is not so together, one might predict a negative future. But in fact, if this is how we understand the rabbi's views on dreams we would be very mistaken.In fact, what the rabbis man is that speaking the dream makes it happen, even if the speaker is completely without knowledge of the circumstances of the dreamer.
A key tothe rabbinic view of dreams can be found in the portion itself. When Pharaoh tlls Joseph I dreamt a ream, but there is no one who could interpret it; I heard it said about you that if you hear a dream you are able to interpret it," Jospeh responds (Ber. 41:16):
áÌÄìÀòÈãÈé àÁìÉäÄéí éÇÍòÂðÆä àÆúÎùÑÀìåÉí ôÌÇøÀòÍÉä:
"That is beyond me [to interpret a dream]; God will answer for pharaoh's welfare."
That is, unlike the students of our story whose interpretation killed a person, Joseph made himself transparent in a way; a window for God to be seen through.
There is a saying of the rabbis that appears in the talmud:
Yevamot 49b
ëãúðéà: ëì äðáéàéí ðñúëìå áàñô÷ìøéà ùàéðä îàéøä, îùä øáéðå ðñúëì áàñô÷ìøéà äîàéøä
All the prophets looked into a dim glass, but Moshe rabeinu looked into a clear glass.
Why would we say that the prophets only saw God through a dim glass? So often when we seek God, we see God only through the lens of -ourselves. IN fact, instead of seeing God, we see ourselves: we make of our religoin a mirror. We do what we wnt and hear what we wish for. The prophets were better at this than most of us - they were able to scrape a little of the silver off the mirror and see through to God's wishes of us, but still, one can see by the different tones of the prophets, that they, too, revealed themselvs through their prophey evn as they were revealing God to us. But when Moshe sought to reveal God in the world, he made of himself a clear glass, one through which not his wishes, but God's, came through - at least most of the time. Even Moshe, after all, wasn't perfect.
In Isaiah 59:21 which appears at the end of the weekday morning service,
it says:
As for me, this is my covenant with them, says the Lord; My spirit that is upon you, and my words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your seed, nor from the mouth of your seed’s seed, says the Lord, from now on and forever.
God promises Israel that we and our children will always have the power of prophecy. Now you may think that this has turned out not to be true, not withstanding bubbe's uncanny ability to call when one of her grandchildren have broken a leg or dinged the car on the last trip out. But if we think about Jospeh's response, perhaps we might come to a different conclusion.
It's true that none of us are Moses. We're mostly - especially today when we're accustomed to living however we wish and thinking that whatever we wish must be the right thing- unable to put ourselves aside to make a clear glass for God's will. But God doesn't expect that of us, anyway. God doesn't ask, why weren't you Moshe rabeniu, God asks us, why weren't you, you?
But while we my not be able to be a clear glass, we o hav the capability of avoiding being the mirror, inwhic we see only ourselves, when we look for God.
While perhaps we don't have the power to make our dreams come true through interpretation, we have something almost as good, the power to make our lives be true through the power of making them a window for God.
When Jospeh told pharaoh that he didn't hve the power or wisdom to interpret dreams, he took himself out of the mirror, and made a little space for God to act in the world. Thus through him, thw beginning of Israel's destiny to come down into Egypt so that we could be redeemed and made holy at Sinai began. Who knows what our dreams may hold, if we open our minds to God?

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