Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis
Chief Rabbi Ephraim MirvisEliran Aharon

How do we respond to extraordinary experiences? If I were to give a subtitle to Sefer Bereishit, the Book of Genesis, it would be the Book of Dreams. Not only does this book of the Torah present us with details of the dreams themselves, but more importantly we’re told how the dreamer reacted.

In Parshat Vayeitzei we are given a description of Jacob’s famous dream of the ladder, which spanned the distance from earth up to the heavens. How did Jacob react when he woke up? The Torah tells us (Bereishit 28:16),

“Vayikatz Yaakov mishnato vayomer,” – “Jacob woke up from his sleep and he declared,”

“Achein yesh Hashem bamakom hazeh.” – “Behold the presence of God is in this place.”

That was how he responded. He recognised the presence of God, and he continued to do so for the rest of his life; indeed we speak about it to this day.

Let’s now have a look at a dream of Pharaoh King of Egypt, as described in Parshat Mikeitz (Bereishit 41:4, Bereishit 41:5). There the same term ‘vayikatz’ is used.

“Vayikatz Paroh,” – “Pharaoh woke up,”

“vayishan.” – “and he went back to sleep,”

“Vayichalom,” – “And he had another dream.”

What a remarkable dream Pharaoh had just had! In the course of time he would discover that it would provide for him and his people a secret to their survival! Yet his reaction was that he turned over and he went back to sleep.

Herein lies a very powerful message for us all. So often it’s not just in dreams that we might see something remarkable. More than that, we actually have exceptionally powerful experiences in our lives. Hashem is trying to say something to us.

What will our response be? Will it be just to turn over and ignore it, or will we respond in an appropriate way?

During the past year and a half every single one of us has experienced something unprecedented; we’ve all had our own personal, family, communal, national and global experiences. We have been able to learn so much from the pandemic. And now that b’ezrat Hashem we are gradually moving out of it, what will our response be? Will we just go back to the way we were before? Or will we learn some lessons and guarantee that as a result of this extraordinary experience our lives will forever be changed for the better?

Let’s always see to it that when it comes to those unusual and extraordinary moments of our lives, our response should be the response of Jacob, and not the response of Pharaoh.