Tzvi Fishman
Tzvi FishmanCourtesy

Rabbi Chaim Drukman, of blessed memory, has a remarkable insight on the verse in Tehillim, “When the L-rd brought back the exiles of Zion we were like dreamers” (Tehillim, 126:1). To remind the reader, this verse is found in the Psalm we read before Birchat HaMazon on Shabbat. The words of King David express our longing for Redemption from foreign lands and teach that true joy can only be obtained with our return to Israel.

In his book, “Step-By-Step” on the Redemption of Israel, Rabbi Drukman devotes a chapter to explain the reference to dreamers in the famous Psalm. Interestingly, he calls the chapter “Wake Up from Your Dream!”

Step by Step book coverr
Step by Step book coverrphoto

Before presenting his own explanation, Rabbi Drukman summarizes the three main understandings handed down by our Sages.

-The Ibn Ezra states that when the scattered and outcast exiles return to Israel they will be so astonished by the wondrous event that it will seem to them as if they are dreaming.

-The Torah commentator, the Radak, quoting his father Rabbi Yosef Kimchi, states that when the redeemed Jews in Israel look back at the exile it will seem to them like a passing nightmare compared to the great joy they now experience as free Jews in the Jewish Homeland.

-According to the Meiri, the use of the expression “dreamers” describes how the exiled Jews throughout the centuries in alien Gentile countries always dreamed of Redemption with the return to Zion.

In light of our own experience in our time, Rabbi Drukman offers a fourth explanation. To heighten our understanding he employs the metaphor of a classroom where some students sit daydreaming, their eyes open but their minds far away, dreaming of other matters, totally disconnected from the lesson in the classroom. “The phrase ‘We were like dreamers’ can be similar understood,” he writes. “Instead of seeing the glorious events in which we had the opportunity and privilege of participating, instead of seeing their magnitude, many of us remained mired down with minor problems, alien aspirations and material concerns, detached from the significance of the miraculous events unfolding in front of our eyes. We simply did not perceive the miracle of the creation of the State of Israel.”

“After nearly 2000 years of exile, pursecuted all over the world and suffering untold tragedies, Hashem brought back the captives of Zion. And how did we react? We were like dreamers. We remained involved in our own little worlds. We did not internalize what was happening and we remained disconnected from the momentous events. Tragically, when we were finally privileged to play a role in the establishment of a Jewish State with a Jewish government and Jewish army, we were caught daydreaming, just like a daydreaming student in class who doesn’t hear the teacher.”

Rabbi Drukman himself is no longer with us but his words echo out from his tens of thousands of shiurim and from the pages of his books: “WAKE UP FROM YOUR DREAM!”