Two Dreams Required

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Halakhic Positions of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik

by R. Aharon Ziegler

Dreams are important. Chazal tell us, “Kol ha’lan shiva yamim bli chalom nikra ra,” “One who passes seven days without a dream is considered evil” (Berachot 14a). Rav Soloveitchik added that a Jew must constantly have two dreams, one is not sufficient.

This concept comes from no other than Yosef HaTzaddik. Yosef had two dreams. He dreamt of alumot, sheaves, which rose and stood high while the sheaves of his brothers came and bowed down to his. When he told that dream to his brothers, they were not envious of that dream. True, their hatred was deepened, but their envy was not aroused. Then he dreamt another dream. He dreamt of the sun, the moon and the stars bowing down to him. When he told this dream to his father, “Vayekanu bo echav,” his brothers envied him [Bereishit 37:11]. Not only did they hate him but they were envious of him as well. Why were they envious from the second dream and not the first?

Rav Soloveitchik suggested that the dream of sheaves symbolized material economic power, prosperity, and that dream came entirely true. The second dream revolved around spiritual greatness. Yosef wanted to attain wealth, prosperity and power, to be feared by people because of his might. But he also strived for greatness in spiritually, to be loved by people, to be revered by people because of the greatness of his compassion and kindness.

Can one person combine both qualities? Can one person fulfill both dreams, that of sheaves–of economic power–and also that of spiritual greatness and moral heights? Yosef apparently thought that he could combine both.

We Jews throughout history and up to present times have imitated Yosef; we also have two dreams. The Jews dreamed of being successful in their professions and skillful in their trades. We constantly dreamed of sheaves, for otherwise we could not have survived. At the same time the Jew–the small merchant, the grocer, the peddler–would come home for Shabbat and transform his total character and being. The same Jew, sometimes in rags, always had another dream–not of alumot, not of dollars, not of shekalim, nor of rubles and kopeks, but of something else, of a “sun, a moon, and eleven stars” [37:9], of spiritual greatness. His Shabbat robe made him look like a king, his table resembled a royal banquet, and for 24 hours he was transformed into a spiritual personality. These two dreams represent Jewish survival and eternity.

About Aharon Ziegler

Rabbi Aharon Ziegler is the Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Agudath Achim of Boro Park and the Dean and Rosh Kollel of Kollel Agudath Achim. He is the author of six volumes of Halakhic Positions of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik.

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