Powerful Dreams by Ariel Herzog


At the end of Parshat Vayeshev, Pharaoh’s butler and baker ask the imprisoned Yosef to interpret their dreams.  Upon hearing their request, Yosef responds, “Don’t dreams belong to God?” (40:8).  To explain this very ambiguous Pasuk, the Radak proposes that what Yosef really means is that Hashem “owns” the interpretations of dreams.  Each dream has an interpretation, for a primary purpose of dreams is to be a means of communication from Hashem to us, and Hashem will allow us to know the meaning of a particular dream.

This Radak may help us understand the life of Yosef as explained by the Ramban.  Yosef grew up being hated by his brothers, and spent years in prison for a crime he did not commit.  Then, the scales tipped the other way.  He correctly interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams, became second to king, and finally his entire family bowed down to him!  Regarding this last event (42:9), the Ramban comments that Yosef did not reveal himself to his brothers until all eleven were standing in front of him because he believed the dreams he dreamt in his youth were an agenda he was destined to fulfill.  His first dream had been that all his brothers would bow down to him.  If Yosef revealed himself to his brothers without Binyamin (who was still in Eretz Yisrael) present, they would have brought back Yaakov with Binyamin, and Yosef knew that eleven brothers would bow down to him without his father.  Therefore, Yosef made an excuse to bring back Binyamin alone.  It was only after all eleven had bowed that Yosef was willing to reveal himself.  Yaakov could then come and bow down with the rest of the family, thereby fulfilling the second dream.

How, asks the Ramban, could Yosef dare not to let his father know as soon as possible that he was alive?  He should have sent for him immediately!  The Ramban answers that Yosef’s drive to fulfill his life’s dream-shaped agenda was so strong that he felt it had to override anything.  In the moment his brothers stood before him, he suddenly understood the purpose of all the confusion and turmoil of his entire life.

The Radak’s comment about dreams gives support to this Ramban.  Dreams, according to Radak, are all in the power of Hashem.  Although the interpretations are not always given immediately, they will, if Hashem sees fit, eventually be revealed.  So, too, the life of Yosef, and our lives as well, all have purposes, even though sometimes they are not revealed to us until a later time in our lives.  We must trust Hashem that He will help us in all that we do, and that while fulfilling our mission we will have a life of Simcha, health, and Torah.

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