The Dreamer by Simcha Lev Abrahams


Yosef's brothers refer to Yosef as a “Ba’al HaChalomot” (BeReishit 37:19), a dreamer, and for good reason. Yosef dreams two dreams in the beginning of this week’s Parashah. The first time (37:5-7) he dreams that his brothers’ sheaves of grain gather around his own sheaf and bow down to it. His brothers interpret this to mean that Yosef wants to rule over them. The second time (37:9), Yosef’s dream is about the sun, the moon, and eleven stars, which are all bowing down to him.  Ya’akov interprets this dream to mean that he, Rachel, and Yosef’s eleven brothers will bow down to Yosef. Yosef’s dreams make his brothers jealous and their jealousy inspires them to sell him to merchants. Ironically, this eventually leads to Yosef becoming the second-in-command of Mitzrayim (BeReishit 41:40), and, as we see at the end of Parashat MiKeitz (43:26), to the brothers bowing down to Yosef. However, Ya’akov, unlike Yosef’s brothers, is not angry at Yosef for his dreams, but instead quietly keeps the matter in mind. Why is this? Why does Ya’akov not have a more negative reaction to Yosef’s dreams?

Rashi (37:11 s.v. Shamar Et HaDavar) notes that Ya’akov is anticipating that Yosef’s dreams will come true. How does Rashi know this? It may be that Ya’akov knows to take dreams seriously since he himself has a dream in Parashat VaYeitzei about angels climbing up and down a ladder and Hashem speaking to him (28:12-15). Ya’akov also knows that Yosef isn’t gloating over his brothers when he tells them about his dream – he is just stating the facts of his dreams. Even though his interpretations insult his brothers, his intention is not to hurt them. Ya’akov realizes that Yosef is not trying to hurt his brothers in any way, but at the same time understands how insulted they are. This is why he scolds Yosef (37:10), “Mah HaChalom HaZeh Asher Chalamta Havo Navo Ani VeImecha VeAchecha LeHishtachavot Lecha Artzah,” “What is this dream that you have dreamt? Are we to come – I, your mother, and your brothers – to bow down to you to the ground?” Ya’akov’s words may sound harsh, but as Rashi points out, he is actually guarding the reputation of Yosef’s dreams, waiting for the day when they will come true.

Yosef’s dreams, in which he is at the center, represent his thinking of man in his highest state, at the center of Creation itself. Yosef’s dreams are not egotistical; he is simply dreaming about the awesome responsibility of man to serve Hashem. Yosef, who is to become the world’s visionary leader, is dreaming of human’s limitless potential to become the center of creation. After his lofty dreams, Yosef is put to the test. He struggles from hardship to hardship, beginning when he is thrown into a pit by his brothers, continuing when he is sold to Mitzrayim by his brothers, and culminating with his term in jail for refusing to be seduced by Potifar’s wife. Yosef has lofty dreams and he achieves greatness against all odds. Ya’akov understands Yosef’s dreams and regards them harshly only on the surface; secretly, he is waiting for when they will come true, because he knows that Yosef does not tell them over with negative intent. Ya’akov’s is faithful that Yosef dreams not about loftiness but about legitimate greatness, and within Ya’akov’s lifetime, he sees his confident hopes of Yosef’s potential come to fruition.

Yosef: A Learned, Loveable Leader by Buddy Wise

Listen to What You Hear by Rabbi Jeremy Donath