What's In A Dream?

parsha self help Dec 03, 2018

By Amichai Cohen

When you hear the word "dreams" what comes to mind?  

For many people sleep comes to mind, for others hope for a newfound reality comes to mind. 

We all have those unrealistic dreams, such as "I want to be a fireman when I grow up" or "I want to be superman.." We do however have realistic dreams that we need and must pursue for us to actualize our life's potential. In some ways a dream is similar to hope. We need to have hope in our lives in order to motivate us to pursue something great. When we rely on hope, then we can become hopeless. 

The Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Formation) says that the month of Kislev is associated with the sense of dreaming.The month of Kislev sifts between those unrealistic dreams ("I want to be an astronaut" ones) and the real ones we are meant to pursue. 

It is interesting that during this month we read the stories of Jacob dreaming and now Joseph, the quintessential dreamer. 

In the story of Joseph, we learn a lot about dreams. Dreams in their literal sense and and more importantly in their figurative sense. 

The Talmud says that the majority of dreams are false and are compared to "a kernel of grain from chaff". Furthermore, the Talmud states that "dreams follow their interpretation", meaning that depending on who you ask is how the dream will manifest. Practically speaking, for dreams to manifest the way we want them to manifest, we must be cautious as to how we interpret those dreams.

Before we explore how Joseph is the prototype having the Biblical success story for manifesting his dreams, let's pause and explore a little about what science says about dreams.

 

The Science Of Dreams

Gabrielle Oettingen is a world-class researcher who has spent her career studying the science of making your dreams come to life.

In her book Rethinking Positive Thinking, she tells us that it’s simply not enough to visualize our ideal life vision-board style. Although it’s very important to start with a vision of our ideal lives, we then need to “rub it up against reality.”

She created something called “WOOP” to help us make our dreams a reality. Here’s the quick take:

Wish: What do you want to see in your life personally or professionally? Imagine something challenging yet feasible you can achieve in a year, month, week or day.

Outcome: What is the #1 benefit you would experience as a result?

Obstacle: What obstacle *within you* stands in the way of achieving that wish? (Emphasis on “within you”!)

Plan: What can you do to get around that obstacle? What’s the #1 most effective thing you could do?

"I wondered if there was anything I could do to the process of dreaming to turn things around and make dreams more helpful for achieving wishes. In particular, since positive fantasies tended to relax people, was there a way that I could use dreaming to wake them up, get them into gear, and motivate them to succeed? I reasoned that the best way to get people up and moving was to ask them to dream and then to confront them right away with the realities that stood in the way of their dreams. I called this confrontation ‘mental contrasting.’ If I could ground fantasies in a reality through mental contrasting, I might be able to circumvent the calming effects of dreaming and mobilize dreams as a tool for prompting directed action.” 

Now back to Joseph.

 

The Dreams

In the story of Joseph, we find a young lad who was favored by his father (a subject in it's self) who "has a dream", two of them actually. Both had to do with grandiose aspirations. In our modern terms "become a billionaire and retiring before the age of thirty".  

Dream # 1: Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it to his brothers. . . . “Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and behold, your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf.”

Dream # 2: “Behold, the sun and the moon and eleven stars bowed down to me.”

 

Manifesting dreams through the challenge

Eventually Joseph's dreams came true and he became the viceroy of Egypt and his brothers did bow down to him. But before reaching that stage manifesting his dreams, Joseph had to go through confrontation and adversity. Here's a quick look at them and then we will elaborate:

  1. Joseph is thrown by his brothers into a pit.
  2. Joseph is sold as a slave to Potifar, eventually rising to become the manager of his estate.
  3. Joseph is thrown into jail. In jail Joseph interprets the dreams of the Baker and Cupbearer of Pharaoh. 

The transformation and lessons learned

  1. Joseph's descent into the pit represents the contrasting view of the dream. From a lofty and hopeful concept, Joseph is faced with the hard reality of being in "the pits". 
  2. Joseph gets comfortable with the concept of diligence and hard work, he now begins his ascent in his "career". Through embracing the challenge (and realizing that there is a greater unforeseen good) and persisting, Joseph is now a "self made man", with no one to rely on but himself and G-d. 
  3. Through more opposition which seems that things are getting worse for him in his life, Joseph realizes that he is on a mission. That is why he maintained a positive attitude even in jail. This allowed him to finally get his big break. By "networking" with the right people, Joseph eventually gets out of jail and ascends to become the viceroy of Egypt, and the rest is history. 

 

Let's explore these three stages in greater detail and see how his approach to them were the catalysts for his eventual rise to greatness.

We find that for Joseph to manifest his dreams he went through three stages 

After Joseph's dreams, the brothers had enough, and decided to get rid of this ego centered dreamer. At first they wanted to kill him, but then decided to throw him into a pit. When a caravan of Ishmalites come through they decided to make a little money and sell him as a slave.

Joseph ends up as a slave in the house of Potiphar, one of the ministers of Pharaoh. In the house of Potifar "Joseph found favor in his sight . . . and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had, he put into his hand.”  

Potiphar’s wife was attracted to the handsome, fortuitous youth. Joseph refused her advancements and was eventually thrown into jail.

Years pass. Then Pharaoh’s chief butler and his chief baker, each of whom had committed some offense against their king, are thrown into the prison where Joseph was, and are entrusted to his care.

One morning, Joseph finds them in a troubled mood. They’ve both had dreams whose meaning they cannot fathom. “Do not interpretations belong to G‑d?” says Joseph. “Tell me them.”

The chief butler relates his dream:

Behold, a vine was before me. And on the vine were three branches; and it was as though it budded, and its blossoms sprang forth, and its clusters brought forth ripe grapes. Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand; I took the grapes and pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup, and I gave the cup into Pharaoh’s hand.

Joseph offers the following interpretation:

The three branches are three days. In another three days Pharaoh will lift up your head, and restore you to your place; you shall place Pharaoh’s cup into his hand, as was the case when you were his butler.

 

When Pharaoh had a dream that could not be solved, the now free cupbearer recommended (begrudgingly) the "young Hebrew slave". Destiny and the hard learned lessons of Joseph now placed Joseph as the new leader of the world, realizing his dreams and living up to his potential. 

 

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