We Were Like Dreamers

By: Jonah James  |  December 7, 2022

By Jonah James, Staff Writer

In Parshas Vayeishev, Yosef is described as both a dreamer and an interpreter of dreams. He dreams of his elevation above his family and he explains to Pharaoh’s butler and baker their respective fortune and demise. 

In Torah Or, the Alter Rebbe reveals our unique spiritual potential that is only accessible via dreams, in which our imagination can unify opposing ideas. Indeed, our exile is likened to an era of sleep, in which we are “like dreamers (Tehillim 126:1).” However, it is specifically in this disorder that we tap into more sublime, Godly levels, losing our ability to control our narrative.

On the one hand, exile allows us to pursue our materialistic desires with the same passion we pursue our spiritual life. We can develop a profound love and awe for Hashem during davening, but immediately afterward, chase after worldly affairs without having Hashem in mind. 

This contradiction reflects a spiritual coarseness, in which we mistakenly convince ourselves that our material and spiritual lives have been fused. In the language of Chassidus, this is a withdrawal of consciousness. Like a fetus, our Godly awareness is “curled up” (Zohar Tosefta Beshalach, page 50 and Etz Chaim Shar HaKlalim, Chapter 2) during exile, and we know only our metabolic functions or desire for love. We do not access our higher cognitive faculties.

On the other hand, this undeveloped Godly awareness, caused by the entanglements of exile, contains the deepest expression of Infinity within. When we are awake, we compartmentalize God to the limits of order, in which paradoxes cannot exist. But in the chaos of dreams, we access raw Godliness. This lack of definition allows us to explore areas of consciousness too difficult to experience while awake (Rebbe Rashab Maamar Osray lagefen, 1917). 

During exile, this raw Godliness appears as confusion. We do not know how to process these rarefied levels, as the verse says, “I clothe the Heavens with blackness” (Yeshaya 50:3). But in the disorder shines a higher level of Godliness, a level that does not normally belong there. 

It is only our intellect which fails to synthesize conflicting ideas. This is why during exile, prophecy was given to children and fools (Bava Basra 12b) who have more room in their minds for transcendent communication (as explained by Rabbi Yossi Paltiel).

In Yemos HaMoshiach (the Days of the Messiah), our need for dreams will disappear because we will access the Godliness that was previously obscured. For example, in exile we refer to Yud-Kay-Vav-Kay (the Tetragrammaton) as Adnai (My Master), even though Adnai reflects a lower level of Hashem. Adnai is Hashem as the Master of the world, while Yud-Kay-Vav-Kay expresses Hashem as the only existence. But Moshiach is the integration of chaos and order, and thus we will pronounce Yud-Kay-Vav-Kay as it written. 

From this, we can understand why “we were like dreamers.” As we enter the days of Moshiach, we will wake from our slumber and realize the benefit of our dreams, namely, the Godliness we unknowingly accessed. The Alter Rebbe explains that Yosef was on a higher level than Moshe in a certain sense, as he not only found abstruse Godly levels via dreams, but also clarified others’ messages from God. 

May we learn from the “new Torah that will go forth from Me” (Yeshaya 51:4) with the full revelation of Moshiach, whose bodily existence is in this world (Shabbos Vayeira 5752), and whose prophecy has already been reinstituted (Shabbos Shoftim 5751).