The Power of Dreams

December 18, 2020
By Beth Mordecai
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The Power of Dreams

• Shabbat Miketz 5781 •

We find ourselves in the midst of the Joseph section of the book of Genesis. You know the story. Joseph, the second to youngest of 12 brothers, is sold into slavery for his annoying tendency to share his dreams which often depict him ruling over the family. As you might imagine there was some tension between Joseph and his siblings.

Throughout the many chapters that cover Joseph’s life, there is one theme that runs throughout the story; dreams. Joseph’s tale begins with two dreams of his own followed by when he interprets the dreams of the cupbearer and baker in prison. This kindness ultimately saves his life where he is called up from captivity to share the meaning of the Pharaoh’s dreams. And we know he is the favorite son of Jacob who had his own famous dreams in Torah.

According to the Rabbis (Talmud Brachot 57b) Dreams are 1/60 of prophecy. The Talmud says, “There are five matters in our world which are one-sixtieth of their most extreme manifestations. They are: Fire, honey, Shabbat, sleep, and a dream. The Gemara elaborates: Our fire is one-sixtieth of the fire of Gehenna; honey is one-sixtieth of manna; Shabbat is one-sixtieth of the World to Come; sleep is one-sixtieth of death; and a dream is one-sixtieth of prophecy…”

The notion of 1/60 may be familiar from the world of kashrut. It is the smallest amount of forbidden mixture (think milk and meat) that can accidentally occur and still be permitted to eat. Any more than that and it’s off limits. Here though the Talmud is teaching an important lesson on the potency of things that we only experience a little bit.

Psychology and folks who study the mind will also tell you that dreams – especially when in the REM phase of sleep – help regulate our emotions, process our experiences of the day, and help us order our minds correctly. Our body naturally does these things. Pretty amazing huh?

Perhaps this is what the Rabbis mean that dreams are 1/60 of prophecy. That if we pay attention to our dreams, what they contain, and how they make us feel – we will be offered a guide for our next day and a path forward in confidence.

Joseph and his story give us the opportunity to contemplate our dreams and their potency, just as he showed that dreams hold clues and secrets that can be made manifest in our world.

May all of your dreams be sweet ones and may you have a Shabbat shalom.

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