We know from the Joseph story that repetition is a sign of a dream’s significance. I have had some classic recurring dreams myself; e.g., it’s the end of the semester and I have done absolutely none of the course work, or I’m in a play and have forgotten my lines, or I’m partially unclothed at work. One recurring dream that I used to have involved driving. I was uncomfortable driving and didn’t until I had to, to get to work. In my dream, the car would speed up, out of control, and I couldn’t remember which pedal was the brake, so I’d step on one, and the car would speed up. I’d think “Aha!”, step on the other, and the car would speed up, because I had two accelerators and no brakes. I always woke up before I crashed.
Anyhow, my first traumatic experience at work was my first safety meeting. Safety was a religion, and this manager’s meetings included confession. One attendee had twisted an ankle on an exercise trail, and another had slipped on a few rainy steps (no injury, but it was in front of the manager). Each had to confess how it happened and how to prevent a recurrence. This made a profound impression on me, and I had a dual accelerator dream soon after. I was driving in downtown Quincy, MA with a friend in the car, and the car speeded up, and I ran over the car in front of me, flattening it, apparently killing someone. I went on trial for murder, but what made my manager livid was what the incident would do to our safety record. There was also something about herbal tea, but I forget what. That was my last dual accelerator dream. Pharaoh’s dreams at the start of this week’s portion seem bland by comparison (how’s that for a segue?).
It’s now two years since the royal wine steward was sprung from prison. Pharaoh has a pair of disturbing dreams. In one, seven fat, healthy cows are swallowed by seven emaciated ones, which remain emaciated. In the other, seven healthy ears of grain are eaten up by seven withered ones, which remain withered. No one can interpret the dreams. Finally, the royal wine steward tells Pharaoh about the young Hebrew slave in the dungeon who is a gifted dream interpreter. Newly shaved and in fresh clothes, Joseph is brought to Pharaoh and interprets the two dreams as one: seven plentiful years will be followed by seven of famine. One thing I (eventually) learned at work was never to point out a problem without simultaneously proposing a solution. Joseph knows this instinctively and immediately urges Pharaoh to appoint a capable man to set up and direct the storage of the surplus grain during the fat years as a reserve to feed the people during the famine. Pharaoh appoints Joseph. He is given an Egyptian name, dresses like an Egyptian royal, marries an Egyptian woman, has two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, and fits in with the Egyptian court.
Two years into the famine, Jacob tells his remaining sons, except for Benjamin, to go to Egypt to buy grain. They are a rather pathetic bunch, still under their father’s thumb and haunted by their treatment of Joseph. When they arrive, they do not recognize the viceroy as their brother, since Joseph is now much older and is in his Egyptian regalia. Joseph recognizes them, accuses them of being spies, and holds Shimon hostage until they can return with Benjamin to prove their story that they are all brothers. He already knows how guilty they feel about what they’d done to him, because they’ve been talking about that in Hebrew, thinking he wouldn’t understand. He secretly returns their money.
Eventually, the food runs low, and Jacob allows the 9 brothers to take Benjamin with them to Egypt, along with some carefully chosen (by Jacob) diplomatic gifts and the returned money. Joseph treats them all like family, even seating them in age order. He secretly returns their money as before, but also puts his silver divining goblet in Benjamin’s sack. When the goblet is found, Joseph magnanimously offers to let them go home if they leave Benjamin behind as a slave. Will they? Tune in next week.
Since this Shabbat is also Chanukah (חֲנֻכָּה), there is a second scroll reading, this year for the 4th day, Num. 7:30-35, about offerings brought for the dedication of the Tabernacle. analogous to the Maccabees’ rededication of the Temple. There is also a special haftarah, Zechariah 2:14-4:7, chosen for themes of light (cf. the Chanukah menorah, or “chanukiah”) and of a Temple rebuilt and rededicated, declaring (4:6), “Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit—said the Lord of hosts.”
Here are a couple of interesting sites about Chanukah, its history, and its observance customs: Mayim Bialik explains everything you need to know about Chanukah , Hanukkah (lots of information, especially history), and Why do we really light candles on Hanukkah? (why fire?) And here are my Chanukah comments from 2014 (abridged):
Children’s version of the Chanukah story: The Syrian Greeks (Seleucid Empire) tried to force the Jews to renounce the laws and defiled the Temple. The Hasmonean family (Mattathias and his sons, including Judah the Hammer (Maccabee)), kicked the Syrian Greeks out and rededicated the Temple. Only a day’s worth of pure oil existed, but it miraculously burned for 8 days (whence the custom of celebratory fried food) while more was prepared.
But the reality was rather different. The 8-day holiday was like a very late Sukkot, which hadn’t been celebrated because of the Temple defilement. The struggle was largely a civil war. Urban Jews were adopting some Greek customs willingly. The high priest, Menelaus, pushed Antiochus IV to forcibly Hellenize Jewish worship, leading to the rebellion. Hasmonean rule turned corrupt and eventually led to subjugation by Rome. The oil story is really all there is about Chanukah in the Talmud; the rabbis generally disliked celebrating military victories, especially celebrating the Hasmoneans.
Jews have always adopted some local ideas and customs, reinterpreting them if necessary. Joseph manages to maintain his Hebrew identity while at the highest levels of Egyptian society and passes that on to his children. One reason is the Egyptian distaste for foreigners in general, so he is allowed to remain separate. Joseph becomes acculturated to Egypt, but is not assimilated. We, in an open society, struggle to maintain that distinction, but do not always succeed. Those lines can get blurry.
Shabbat shalom and Chanukah sameach (happy),
Twenty Dreams Interpreted (selections, from 2012)
By Roz Warren, posted January 26, 2012
A dream about a thunderstorm means that your husband is snoring again.
A knife may appear in your dream to indicate that when you’re a Jet you’re a Jet all the way.
A dream containing a scale indicates that you need to stop gobbling chocolate chip cookies before bedtime.
Dreaming of an elephant means your husband needs to stop gobbling chocolate chip cookies before bedtime.
Dreaming of a raging fire means you forgot to turn down the thermostat before you went to bed. (Or else it’s just another hot flash.)
Dreaming of a waterfall means you left the water running.
To see muscles in your dream suggests that you have some unresolved Schwarzneggerian issues.
A dream about a train wreck means that you’d better stop voting Republican.
Dreaming of riding in a taxi indicates that when you wake up extra early tomorrow morning and rush out the door to make sure you get to that important meeting on time, your car isn’t going to start.
A Pig Being Cleaned
Dreaming of a pig being cleaned means you think dream interpretation is a bunch of hogwash.
Roz Warren writes for The New York Times and The Funny Times. Her work also appears in Good Housekeeping, The Christian Science Monitor and The
Quotes about Fitting In
Don’t worry about not fitting in. The things that make people think you’re weird are what makes you you, and therefore your greatest strength. Birgitte Hjort Sorensen
Fitting in is unnecessary. Embrace who you are. You will go through rough times in high school, but always stay strong, and never deny yourself! Neon Hitch
I was always a class clown, so I never had trouble fitting in; I just had trouble finding out where I really wanted to be. Logan Henderson
I came to terms with not fitting in a long time ago. I never really fitted in. I don’t want to fit in. And now people are buying into that. Alexander McQueen
Two bone weary public servants were working their little hearts and souls out. Their department was just too busy for staff to be able take flex. But there had to be a way …
One of the two public servants suddenly lifted his head. “I know how to get some time off work” the man whispered.
“How?” asked the second worker.
Instead of answering, the man quickly looked around. No sign of his Director. He jumped up on his desk, kicked out a couple of ceiling tiles and hoisted himself up. “Look!” he hissed, then swinging his legs over a metal pipe, hung upside down.
Within seconds, the Director emerged from the Branch Head’s office at the far end of the floor. He saw the worker hanging from the ceiling, and asked him what on earth he thought he was doing.
“I’m a light bulb” answered the public servant.
“I think you need some time off,” barked the Director. “Get out of here – that’s an order – and I don’t want to see you back here for at least another two days! You understand me?”
“Yes sir”, the public servant answered meekly, then jumped down, logged off his computer and left.
The second worker was hot on his heels.
“Where do you think you’re going?” the boss asked.
“Home,” he said lightly. “I can’t work in the dark.”