Rabbis Without Borders
Rabbis Without Borders is a dynamic forum for exploring contemporary issues in the Jewish world and beyond. Written by rabbis of different denominations, viewpoints, and parts of the country, Rabbis Without Borders is a project of Clal – The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.
Dreams are a big part of last week’s and this week’s Torah portion. Among the dreamers are Joseph, the cupbearer, the baker, and Pharaoh. In biblical times, dreams were though to communicate something about the future.
But, in modern times, many of us see dreams differently. Psychologist Sigmund Freud, and others, helped people realize that dreams are neither supernatural nor predictive of the future. Instead, dreams reveal something about our present state and our past experiences. What many of us experience in our dreams is our internal wrestling with the challenges we face during the day, an effort of our minds to make sense of our experiences. Our dreams often reflect, directly or indirectly, our hopes and disappointments.
Of course, those are the dreams we have in our sleep. There are also the dreams we have in waking moments. In these dreams, we explore our visions for ourselves, and for our communities. At times when we feel the world is broken, dreams help us attempt to get out of the darkness by imagining a brighter future. In the Torah, we see that it was in the darkness of the pit, in the darkness of prison, that Joseph was able to recreate a dream for himself and his community.
Psychologist Abraham Maslow tells us that our dreams need to be realistic. If we shoot too high, we will fall short; but if we deliberately plan on being less than we are capable of being, that does not bring happiness either. Finding balance is the challenge. Setting our dreams invites us to prioritize, to weigh what is most important to us, to be bold and imaginative, mixed with a healthy dose of the practical as well.
We dream and we hope, even knowing that not all of our dreams will come to fruition. Having an awareness that dreams will be shattered and still allowing ourselves to dream big is actually an incredibly resilient act. To truly engage in the creative activity of dreaming requires us to move beyond only our practical side, allowing our imaginations to create something brighter. Even knowing that by creating a dream we take a risk, the risk of not achieving, we boldly allow ourselves to dream again.
Once we know our dreams we can choose to share them with others, though giving voice to our dreams may further challenge us. We make ourselves vulnerable through sharing with others. We take a risk that others will think our dreams are silly and/or not valuable, or worse yet, not achievable. But others can help us see our dreams more clearly, as Joseph does for Pharaoh in the Torah. The Talmud tells us that “a dream that hasn’t been interpreted is like a letter that hasn’t been read.”
Dreaming is a hopeful act, a practical act, a resilient act, and an important act. In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
Pronunced: TORE-uh, Origin: Hebrew, the Five Books of Moses.