"I have dreamed a dream"
"To be or not to be: That is the question." At least in Hamlet's mind that is the question. Torah answers this question with an emphatic yes, resonating from the moment of creation, and even a moment before that. But Hamlet, in his long brood, carries his darkness even further: "To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub." It would seem that the hapless Hamlet is haunted by his own dreams, or more precisely, by what they reveal about himself. On the other hand, Yosef, our own inveterate dreamer, had no such compunction. Yosef sought only G-d's word in his dreams and in the dreams of others, and not his or their own earthly schemes or motivations. Our sages teach us that our dreams contains both the wheat and the chaff. Every dream we dream has an element of prophecy. But alas, every dream we dream contains its own fair amount of nonsense. Winnowing the kernel of truth from the mass of chaff is the particular skill that Yosef possessed, and that, in truth, very few of us today possess.
Yosef was a young man who followed his dreams, (and the dreams of others), which dragged him down to the depths of despair before propelling him upon his meteoric rise to fame and power. His story alone testifies to the Torah's endorsement of dreams and dreaming. His brothers misunderstood Yosef's dreams because they read their own fears and desires into his dreams. Pharaoh was confounded by his own dreams, unable to make heads or tails of their profound imagery. Yet Yosef, in a flash, was able to separate the message from the metaphor, and laid out for Pharaoh both the meaning of his dreams and the practical solution for dealing with their portent.
There are no dreams which accompany the story of the Chanuka victory of the Maccabi warriors over the Greek oppressors, but neither is the annual coinciding of the Yosef story with the Chanuka celebration a meaningless coincidence. On Chanuka, in commemoration of the miracle of the single cruse of oil which burned brightly for eight consecutive days, we kindle our own Chanuka lights. Anyone who prepares their own wicks for their Chanukiyot (lamps) knows the following: the wick draws up the pure olive oil, and produces both a brilliant illumination, and plenty of jet black soot.
A dream's ultimate source is G-d, akin, in the case of our Chanuka lamp, to the pure golden olive oil. In one's dream is both the Divine illumination, as envisioned in our mind's eye, (the wick), and all the senseless chatter that inevitably accompanies our dream. And that is the soot. Little wonder that we are instructed on each of the eight nights of Chanuka to take the time to gaze at and enjoy the the glow of our candles after we have kindled them. For this soft but penetrating light is both the source of our dreams and also the very light that first accompanied and illuminated creation. Our sages teach us that G-d, seeing that the world was not ready to merit this pure and holy light, hid that light away for the enjoyment of the righteous in the world to come. Behold - for the eight days of Chanuka, we are the righteous and this is the world to come!
Contrary to the apprehensions of Hamlet, we have nothing to fear from our dreams if we but cling to their pure source, seek out and behold the illumination of their true message, and regard their worthless soot and dross accordingly. One of the most moving of Psalms is Psalm 126, which begins: "A song of ascents. When HaShem returns the returnees to Zion, we shall be like dreamers."
Today all of Israel are as dreamers for we have indeed returned to our land. Our many enemies see only darkness and danger in our dream. They, like Yosef's brothers, are transposing their own fears and, (in this case), their own un-G-dly desires upon our dream. Many others just don't get it, for they, like Pharaoh, can't separate the wheat from the chaff. And to be sure, there is chaff and there is black soot, for this is a natural byproduct of G-d's dream in this world. And for this reason we are commanded to see the light and to dwell in its illumination, and not to dwell in the blackness of the soot.
Our ancestors, the Chashmonean (Maccabi) priests, knew this well. They recaptured and purified the Holy Temple years into a war for liberation that would last decades more. In spite of the daunting task and its many dangers that still lay ahead of them, they stopped all activity at once and busied themselves with only one thing: rekindling the seven lamps of the golden menora. The one cruse of pure olive oil that they discovered in the ransacked Sanctuary, which would burn uninterrupted for eight nights and days, was their reward for remaining true to their dreams and steadfast in their fight for G-d's honor, for His light is the light that our dreams are made of.
In the words of the unfortunate Dane: "perchance to dream." By all means - to dream! and to guided in life by the pure Divine light that lights up our dreams. Chanuka sameach - A Joyful Chanuka!
Tune in to this week's TEMPLE TALK as Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven dream aloud about Yosef the dreamer and the role he played in saving his own family and the entire nation of Egypt from famine. It seems that ever since Yosef, Jews are great at dreaming... Keeping their own dreams alive, and fueling the dreams that keep the whole world alive as well. The nations of the world are all for Jewish dream-power, but once we've made their dreams come true, they'd prefer it if we would just disappear...
Chanuka is here, time to bring the Hidden Light back into the world. Speaking of which, the light of this world is the Divine Presence which rests in the Holy Temple.