The Temple Institute: Temple Talk: Kislev 26, 5769/December 23, 2008

"'It is not in me; G-d will give Pharaoh an answer of peace.'"
(Genesis 41:16)

More often than not, the term "dreamer" is used in referring to someone who is, perhaps, not so connected to reality, to someone whose lofty ideas exceed their ability to make those ideas come true. To dream you must be asleep, and, to paraphrase Shakespeare, "there's the rub." What hope is there for one whose eyes are closed to the events transpiring around them?

Yosef, dubbed derisively, "this dreamer" by his brothers, (Genesis 37:19), was a different kind of dreamer. Not only was he emphatically connected to every reality in which he found himself, but he, more than any other of his generation, impacted upon the world at large, changing the history of mankind forever. In what way was "this dreamer" different than today's oft-dismissed dreamers?

The answer can be heard in Pharaoh's words: "I have heard it said of you, that when you hear a dream you can interpret it." (ibid 41:15) In other words, "Listen to what your dreams have to tell you. And once you understand clearly the message, you can act to make it happen." Yosef himself is even more to the point: "It is not in me; G-d will give Pharaoh an answer of peace." (ibid 41:16) By understanding the centrality of G-d, even in the dark recesses of one's own unspoken dreams, as well as in the bright day of one's waking reality, an individual can bridge the gap between sleep and wakefulness, and employ the Divine message contained within the dream to realizing G-d's will in this world. This was Yosef's gift, and far from being a dreamer whose dreams are not grounded in reality, he became the one man on all the earth who could provide sustenance - literally, bread - for all the nations.

The Hasmonean freedom fighters, of Chanukah fame, the small band of Jews who took on the vast legions of Antiochus, the Greek tyrant who sought to sever the nation of Israel from its very source of life - the Torah - were also, it can be said, dreamers. In their case, they were witness to the degradation of the source of all the dreams of their people, and coolly interpreting its Divine message, came to the inescapable realization that the only true option open to them was to take up arms and pursue the enemy. A realistic conclusion? Certainly not. The Hasmoneans were vastly outnumbered and out-armed. Not only were they up against an imperial army but enemies could be found amongst the Hellenizers within the very body of Israel itself. How many of today's policy makers and shapers would write them off as dangerous dreamers? How many investigations would be opened in order to delegitimize them and their cause?

The Hasmoneans, like Yosef, listened for and heeded the call of G-d, not the UN, not the Hague, not the White House press office. This is the vision, and this is the leadership needed, especially now, as the world today, like Egypt of old, seems destined for its own seven years of famine. But today's gathering famine is no less spiritual than material in nature. May the indomitable spirit of Yosef and the uncompromising courage of the Hasmoneans serve to inspire us G-d fearing dreamers to chart a better course for mankind.

Tune in to this week's TEMPLE TALK, as Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven discuss Yosef the dreamer, his connection to the miracles of Chanukah, why it will take a direct descendant of Yosef's mother Rachel, to destroy the Esauvian Amalek, and what it means to increase light in a world of darkness.

Part 1
Part 2