The Source Material of Dreams
Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal. -Pamela Vaull Starr
Pharaoh, the King of Egypt, has a disturbing dream. Seven sickly bone-thin cows consume seven healthy large cows; seven sickly shriveled wheat stalks absorb seven healthy robust wheat stalks. Pharaoh is shaken by the vision and knows it portends some danger to the Egyptian empire. After his advisors and wise men fail to interpret the dream to his satisfaction, the young Hebrew slave, Joseph, imprisoned in the royal dungeon is remembered and brought to Pharaoh to try his luck at interpreting what no one else could. Joseph does it, predicts seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine, is elevated and thereby saves himself, all of Egypt and eventually his family, who join him in Egypt once the prophesized famine hits the region.
Rabbeinu Bechaye on Genesis 41:1 (Miketz) explains the components that make up a person’s dreams and what elements of them are prophetic.
There are three inputs to our dreams: food; thoughts; and what he calls “strengthening of the soul.”
Food causes “fumes” to go to the brain. Dreams that come as a result of what we ate are nonsense. Our thoughts during the day, will lead to dreaming of those matters at night. Those dreams hold no significant importance.
However, the third element of a dream comes from the “strengthening of the soul,” and according to Rabbeinu Bechaye entails a minor prophecy. The dream’s source is the soul and is independent of anything we might have thought about previously. It comes from the power of our imagination to picture matters that the soul senses while awake. Our imagination then illustrates these visions to our mind in our dream-state when we are free of the noise, inputs, stimuli and distractions of our waking hours. These visions are true when the person’s imaginative powers are strong and he hasn’t thought about the vision previously.
This is similar to the minor prophecy that the sages attribute to children and fools, as they don’t have the same mental filters rational adults have developed for such prophetic messages.
He adds that both the righteous as well as the wicked can receive such prophetic dreams. In Pharaoh’s case, God specifically sent the prophetic dream to him, to set in motion the release and elevation of Joseph.
May we strengthen our own souls and dream prophetic dreams.
Shabbat Shalom and Chanuka Sameach,
To the Jewish community of Atlanta. I had the privilege to enjoy your southern hospitality in a time of need.