D’var Torah for December 30, 2016

With this week’s Torah portion, Parshat Miketz, we read the second of the trilogy of Torah portions that deal with Joseph’s story. Dreams are an essential theme to this entire narrative. From the beginning, Joseph’s dreams cause jealousy and strife between brothers, ultimately resulting in Joseph’s enslavement and journey to Egypt. After being falsely accused of coming on to his master’s wife, Joseph winds up in prison, where he is given the opportunity to interpret the dreams of others. His successful understanding of these visions lands him at the foot of the Pharoah himself, ready to advise this great leader about his dreams. Dreams bring Joseph down, but also raise him up.

Standing before Pharoah, Joseph knows that understanding a dream is not enough, when confronted with a danger, you must face it, create a plan, and learn from it. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks wrote: “leaders interpret other people’s dreams. They articulate the inchoate. They find a way of expressing the hopes and fears of a generation. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech was about taking the hopes of African Americans and giving them wings. It was not Joseph’s dreams that made him a leader: it was Pharaoh’s. Our own dreams give us direction; it is other people’s dreams that give us opportunity.”

Pharoah’s dreams gave Joseph the opportunity to step away from his history as a petulant and spoiled child, and take up the mantle of leader who could save his adopted nation, and eventually, his own people. Joseph sees the danger in the predictions of the dreams and creates a way forward to survival. As we approach the new secular year, many of us begin to dream and vision what we hope for in our personal lives as well as our public ones. Our hopes, and those of leaders whom we respect, mean little without a plan of action, however. This is what the interpretation of a dream is. First we recognize the fantasy and then find a way to bring it to fruition in the world.

As we approach 2017, may all of our dreams come true in our own lives and in the world beyond.

Shabbat shalom! L’shalom and with prayers for true peace in the world,

Cantor Sally Neff