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Our Dreams, Our Selves, Our God

By Rabbi Rafi Rank

You wake up in the morning. You just had a dream. It has left you feeling unsettled, anxious, or edgy. And the worst of it is this-you can't remember the particulars. All that remains is the malaise it has evoked. The phenomenon of forgetting one's dreams is not uncommon. It has been variously explained as a form of repression or the effects of interference. Dreams may point to taboo aspects of life, so we repress such thoughts. Or, the simple pressures of waking up-dressing, eating, commuting-may be so distracting that our dreams fall by the wayside. Some argue that westerners are so trapped in the material world, they pay short shrift to their inner lives, and dreams are thus not given the attention they deserve.

Pharaoh did not forget his dreams. But he didn't understand them either. For that, he needed an expert. Ironically, the only expert that could assist him was in prison: Joseph. Pharaoh frees him and asks for an interpretation of his dreams. Joseph does so and when Pharaoh finds Joseph's interpretation compelling, he advances him to the highest position in Egypt. Pharaoh actually renames Joseph: TzafiNAT PanEiah, which in Egyptian means-"God speaks; He lives." Was Pharaoh saying that Joseph was God's spokesperson or that via Pharaoh's own dreams, God spoke? Whatever Pharaoh actually meant, one thing is certain-Pharaoh did not dismiss his dreams as mumbo jumbo nor did he regard Joseph's interpretation as anything less than the word of God. Could God be speaking to us in our dreams? And could we, held captive by a very material world, be ignoring those divine messages? To the extent that our subconscience refuses to lie-tossing before us our fears, desires, and concerns-our dreams may be pointing to truths that we need to face. A dream which depicts the death of loved ones may not be a premonition of events to come, but it may challenge us to be more grateful for those closest to us. Dreams should be taken seriously but we will never understand them if we keep our curiosity about them locked in prison. Our inner lives are no less a part of us than our waking, conscious selves. In attending to our dreams and pondering their meanings, we may not become the vizier of a great empire, like Joseph, but we may grow in ways heretofore unimaginable. Should we dare to face our dreams, we may actually discover the voice of God whispering within us.

Rafi Rank is Rabbi of Midway Jewish Center in Syosset, NY as well as Vice President of the International Rabbinical Assembly

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