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Keep Dreaming!

Friday, 3 December, 2021 - 5:12 am

Dreams occupy a significant part of last week’s parsha and in this week’s parsha of Miketz, they are center stage. Yoseph dreams. Yoseph interprets dreams.

These dreams lead to tremendous success. They all depict – or lead the way toward – Yoseph becoming viceroy of Egypt.

However, in the bigger picture, the dreams that elevated Yoseph to near royalty, also led the Jews to eventually become enslaved in Egypt. What seemed like a personal victory for Yoseph became a yoke of oppression for his people.

In fact, Yoseph’s father Yaakov also dreamed. Yoseph dreamed of stars in the sky and Yaakov dreamed of a ladder. Yoseph dreams of bushels of wheat and Yaakov dreamed of angels.

What is the symbolism of the fact that Yaakov and Yoseph, alone amongst the founding fathers of Judaism, dream? Why does the Torah emphasize dreams with these two individuals?

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At Chanukah we celebrate the victory of the Jewish people fighting for their religious rights. The Maccabees were victorious against the Greeks, a powerful regime bent on taking the soul out of Judaism. We observe this miracle by kindling the menorah, a beacon of light, designed to eliminate the darkness, physical and spiritual.

But, why do we celebrate their victory when ours is incomplete? They prevailed and reclaimed the Holy Temple. They were able to live under self-rule in the Holy land.

We, however, still live in an imperfect world. The light we shine fails to eliminate the darkness.  Should we rejoice at the triumph of light if it’s only fleeting and partial?

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Yaakov and Yoseph both dreamed at times when they were about to face adversity.  Yaakov was leaving the comfortable and holy environs of his family, his community and his land. Yoseph was entering into the hazardous and foreign corridors of power and depravity.

The mystics teach us that the symbolism of a dream is the ability to triumph amidst the darkness; the power to persevere in hostile environments. In a dream, opposites can coexist. Similarly, in exile we Jews have suffered and – at the very same time – influenced the world tremendously. Scattered among the nations of the world, we have left a mark of holiness and progress.  It’s a paradoxical reality. It’s a dream.

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At Chanukah, we are meant to remember that exile is not merely a punishment. It’s an opportunity. To be certain, it’s a contradictory reality. But, it’s designed – like a dream – to contain both extremes.

We must embrace the dream of exile as our calling to impress upon the world the goodness of Torah, the civility and true freedom of Judaism.

By kindling another flame each and every day, gradually increasing the global light, we will wake up one day to a world that is truly – and exclusively – bright.

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