Kansas City 2003-2005
Joseph, the ambitious protagonist of the final four readings of Genesis, is the “master of dreams”. In addition to his own two dreams of future greatness, Joseph is called upon to interpret four more dreams: the dreams of the royal baker and steward, and Pharaoh’s double dream about the famine of seven years.
All six dreams were prophetic. As the Sages wrote, “A dream is a sixtieth of prophecy”. And yet there are inaccuracies in Joseph’s dreams. Joseph dreamt that the sun and moon would bow down to him – i.e., even his father and mother would acknowledge his greatness. But, as his father pointed out, Joseph’s mother had passed away long before!
Still, “Jacob waited to see the results.” [Genesis 37:11]Jacob knew that this impossibility did not invalidate the rest of the dream. The Sages remarked:
“Even if most of a dream comes true, not all of it will come to pass.” [Berachot 55]
Why do dreams contain extraneous and inaccurate details?
Rav Kook explained that this is due to the very nature of dreams. All dreams come from the human powers of imagination and emotion. As such, they are subject to exaggeration and nonsensical elements. But even prophetic dreams (or the elevated parts of dreams) may nevertheless contain details which do not fit reality. This is because the truth of prophetic dreams relates to the general reality of what should occur. It may be that due to circumstances, certain details will in fact occur differently. This does not mean that the dream contained fabrications. Rather, the dream’s message relates to what potentially could or should have occurred.
Joseph dreamt of his parents bowing down before him. In reality, his mother had died long before. Yet, the fundamental message of the dream was true. For had Rachel still been alive, she too would have bowed down before her son – the viceroy of Egypt.