Rabbi Berel Wein
Rabbi Berel WeinCourtesy

In a few weeks, we will read in the Torah that the brothers of Joseph referred to him almost derisively as being the master of dreams. Yet we see in this week's reading that it is our father Jacob who is really the master of dreams.

Two of Yaakov's major dreams are recorded for us, and it is obvious from the story of his life that Yaakov is constantly guided and influenced by the dreams that he dreamt when he left the home of his parents and journeyed to an alien society.

Dreams are one of the most provocative and mysterious events that occur to human beings. They come to us on almost a daily or nightly basis. Early psychiatry held that dreams would be key to understanding human personality and reflect the emotional and mental stresses that exist in human life. The correct interpretation of dreams, according to this theory, help solve mental health disorders or, at the very least, help to diagnose them, so that perhaps they might be treated.

The Talmud teaches us that those dreams have the quality of being a minor type of prophecy. There is an entire chapter in the Talmud devoted to explanations and interpretations of dreams. The Torah itself teaches us that prophecy itself, except for the prophecy of Moshe, was always communicated through the medium of the subconscious and dreams.

Appreciating all of this will help us understand the story of Jacob and his survival in the house of Lavan. What is the secret of the strengths that Yaakov exhibits in being able to resist the culture of Aram and the influence of the house of Lavan? Jacob never forgets the dream of the ladder stretching from earth to heaven, of the angels, and of the message of God himself reassuring him of his protection and survival.

Dreams often become reality to the dreamer. And when they do, a great new force of self-confidence is given to the dreamer. There are dreams that we immediately forget upon awakening in the morning, and there are some dreams that remain with us, but they also usually are of limited influence, and after a length of time, they also disappear.

It is only a great dream, perhaps even one that has frightening aspects to it, that remains embedded in our memory and consciousness. And it is this type of the dream that influences our behavior and drives us forward in our lives. This dream encompasses our ambitions, our energy, our creativity, and our direction in life. It becomes the source of our hopes, and the source of our disappointments, as well as our achievements and our shortcomings.

Our father Jacob is really the great dreamer of the family, who keeps the tradition of the Jewish people. He never seeks to escape his dream, but rather, devotes his entire life and being toward its realization and actualization.

Rabbi Berel Wein is a noted scholar, historian, speaker and educator, admired the world over for his audio tapes/CDs, videos and books, particularly on Jewish history. After many years serving as a community rabbi in Monsey, NY, he made aliya and is rabbi of Beit Knesset Hanassi in Jerusalem.