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    I must be dreaming – Vayyetzei

    Jacob dreams, by José de Ribera, 1639

    We find a famous dream in this week’s sidra.

    The Book of B’reshit in fact relates a number of important dreams, including those of Pharaoh, king of Egypt.

    The usual view is to regard these dreams as a kind of Divine language – God conveying a message.

    In the Midrash, Chanina ben Yitzchak declared that “a dream is a variety of prophecy” (Gen.R. 17:5).

    The Talmud saw dreams as having halachic consequences; thus Rabbi Joseph said, “If one is placed under a ban in a dream, ten persons (a minyan) are necessary in order to lift the ban” (Ned. 8a).

    To this day people often consider dreams as Divine guidance and use them in decision-making.

    However, some years ago Professor Isaac Lewin of Bar Ilan University argued that a dream is a psychological and not a religious phenomenon. He stated that dreams are a natural outlet for tensions, and pointed out that dreams are quickly forgotten unless the person is awoken in the middle of the dream.

    Dreams are unstable, frequently linking places, events and people in an impossible way. The barriers of reality melt away in a dream, and what you dream about, even if you afterwards remember it, generally has little basis in firm reality.

    Yet from this lack of total reality arises the notion of the dream as metaphor.

    Dreams carry you into the world of what isn’t… and what could be. In your dream you may see justice, peace, truth and beauty. They are only a dream, because they are waiting for someone to make them happen.

    Jacob had a dream like that. He dreamt that earth and heaven were linked by a ladder. Because of the ladder, the person who was earth-bound could become heaven-bent.

    The sages recognised this in an amazing Midrash. They put into the mouth of God these words, spoken to Jacob: “Stop dreaming, and start climbing!”

    That’s why a dream can be an inspiration. You see what should be, what could be, and you determine that it becomes what will be.

    Leave it as a dream, and a precious opportunity will be lost.

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