We are a people who dream
Many of us feel that we’ve been experiencing a long and terrible nightmare since October 7th, 2023. Nightmares are dreams filled with fear and anxiety. Dreams have limitless possibilities, where the rules of nature can be bent, realities morph and really anything can happen, even time travel. As a people, we have experienced our share of night terrors. And as a people, we dare to dream. The month of Kislev is associated with sleep (Bnei Yissaschar) and therefore connected to dreams. The founder of Chabad Chassidism, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi was freed from captivity on the 19th of Kislev in 1798. He is quoted as having said to his disciples that “one must live with the times,” meaning that one should connect his or her own current life experiences to events or messages which occur in the Torah portion of that week.
In the month of Kislev we read nine of the 10 dreams found in the book of Bereishit. Avimelech King of Gerar experiences a dream of admonition and warning for having taken Sarah Imenu in parshat Vayera, (Bereishit 20:3-8), read during Cheshvan. Two dreams that Yaakov has, one for divine protection with a ladder set earthward and its top reaching heavenward (28:12) and one for financial stability (31:11) as well as God’s warning dream to Lavan (31:24) all occur in parashat Vayetze. In parashat Vayeshev (37:6-9) we hear about Yosef’s double dreams, where, similar to his father, one signifies economic prosperity with the sheaves in the field and the other spiritual attainment with the celestial bodies. The additional two dreams of Pharaoh’s imprisoned cupbearer (40:9) and baker (40:16) end that parasha and lead us to the two dreams of Pharaoh himself in parshat Miketz (chapter 41). These nine visions are all read in the 9th month, the month of Kislev. This is a time of dreams, a time to imagine great spiritual heights, as befitted Yaakov and Yosef as well as thriving independence. They are about the individual firmly positioned in this world who is simultaneously reaching high above in the heavenly spheres (28:12).
Chanukah, which begins on the eve of the 25th of the month, celebrates these two elements in the holiday miracles as well. It is the realization of two dreams- the military miracle of the few overcoming the many and the miracle of the oil- representing our sacred determination as a people to not give up, to rise above our circumstances, and to seek to bring the light of wisdom and peace into the world. “The light kindled by the Hasmoneans from the lone jar of pure oil which burned eight days, lights up Israel’s darkness eternally” (Eliyahu Ki Tov, The Book of Our Heritage). The Jewish People have a light that can dispel the greatest darkness – when we are united and recognize that we are bound together for all time as one family, one nation, one people, with one destiny.
Let us all be dreamers like Yosef (cue the song חנן בן ארי – חולם כמו יוסף Hanan Ben Ari). He dreamed of the future political and economic prosperity as well as the spiritual destiny and leadership for himself. The dual dreams of Yaakov and Yosef serve as a symbol and precursor for the future of the Jewish people. Yosef was placed in captivity (a ”bor”) two times (Bereishit 37:24, 41:14) and even though he was falsely accused, isolated, and unjustly punished, he still held on to his dreams. History repeats itself. Let’s hold on tenaciously to the Jewish people’s power to dream. We long for the duality of physical sustenance and security synthesized with a transcendental mission as the people of God. For God was with Yosef, and Hashem blessed him to be successful (Bereishit 39:2,3,5, 21,23). His is a story that defies logic, much as the existence of the people of Israel in the land of Israel today is beyond the ken of human understanding.
The words of the prophet Yoel have been ringing in my ears-
The nightmare of invading armies (Yoel 1:6), a dark day (2:2), and my persistent theological argument with God- why should the world say “where is your God?!” (2:17) and I pray the words will continue to ring true: And you shall praise the name of God who has acted wondrously with you; and My people will not be shamed evermore. Hashem is in the midst of Israel, and no other… (2:26-7). I dream of open miracles and divine revelation. “And it will happen after this that I will pour out My spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and daughters will prophesy; your elders will dream and your young men will see visions” (Yoel 3:1-2).
Let’s keep envisioning a brighter future, spiritual and material wealth, and feeling God’s presence with us, guiding us and lighting our way. If we dream as Yaakov and Yosef did, perhaps that is already 1/60th of prophecy (Talmud Berachot 57b) and we are on our way to experiencing nevuah. For even if we do not experience prophecy, we are the children of prophets (Talmud Pesachim 66a). If we allow ourselves to be inspired and connected to our living Torah, and to hear the messages that God is sending us through the weekly portions, then we can truly travel back in time through the centuries. As we realize that what was true then is relevant now, we dream for a better future, an end to all nightmares, a return of all of our captives, and the complete actualization of the comforting nevuot of the end of days. As we say in Shir Hamaalot, the Song of Ascents (Psalm 126) When Hashem returns the captivity of Zion, we will be like dreamers. Let us continue to be a people who dream.
We shall envision the wonders and miraculous salvation of Hashem in those days past and today, in our times- בימים ההם בזמן הזה (Al Hanissim prayer).