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Rumination #10: Do my dreams having any special meaning? How can I know?

Daniel and Joseph interpreted dreams. Paul was directed at least once by a dream. Peter appeared to have a dream during an early afternoon nap. When one reads the Bible, it seems quite natural to assume that dreams have a purpose. Depending upon your faith background, you may consider your dreams valuable insights, or not.

Traditional Judaism takes great stock in dreams and considers that sleep is one-sixtieth of death and dreams are one-sixtieth of prophesy.

Five things are a sixtieth part of something else: namely, fire, honey, Sabbath, sleep and a dream. Fire is one-sixtieth part of Gehinnom. Honey is one-sixtieth part of manna. Sabbath is one-sixtieth part of the world to come. Sleep is one-sixtieth part of death. A dream is one-sixtieth part of prophecy.
b.Berachot 57b – Soncino Edition

It is derived that "one-sixtieth" is the smallest part of anything. It is a tradition that depending upon what is seen in a dream, a specific blessing should be said upon waking.

But do my (or your) dreams mean anything really? How do we decide if our dreams are messages from G-d, or simply too much (kosher) pizza the night before? Since I do not remember most of my dreams, I am not a good test case. I do know what Scripture teaches about the negative side of dreams though..

When HaShem your G-d cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, "How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise." You shall not worship HaShem your G-d in that way; for every abomination to HaShem which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods. Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it. If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, "Let us go after other gods" - which you have not known - "and let us serve them," you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for HaShem your G-d is testing you to know whether you love HaShem your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after HaShem your G-d and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.
Deuteronomy 12:29-13:4

There are a few things that this passage can teach us about idolatry, fearing HaShem, and dreams.

Are my dreams trying to tell me something? Possibly. But if they lead me away from the Torah, they are a test... a test as to whether I will walk after HaShem, or engage in idolatry.

But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship G-d and report that G-d is truly among you.
1Corinthians 14:24-25

The purest prophecy is simply to declare what HaShem has already spoken in His word, His Torah.

Parashat Miketz - 'At the end' (Genesis 41:1-44:17)

The name of this week's Scripture portion comes from the first line of Genesis 41:1.

Vayehi miketz sh'natayim yamim uFaro cholem v'hine omed al-hayeor.

Then it came to pass, at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh had a dream; and behold, he stood by the river.

Miketz is not a common word in the Torah. It is used only ten times. It comes from the root verb katzatz, which means "to cut," or "hewn off." The root verb describes the severing of something. What makes the title of this week's parasha interesting is how the word miketz is used elsewhere in the Torah. It can tell us a lot about what we are reading this week about the life of Joseph.

For context, let's look back at last week's portion. Joseph was attacked by his brothers; sold into slavery in Egypt; and his father believed him to be dead. While in the employ of Potiphar he was falsely accused of molesting Potiphar's wife and thrown into prison. While in prison, he met Pharaoh’s baker and butler and interpreted their dreams.

All along the way we are given an exemplary view of Joseph. He is upright, and wise. It seems that he is the most trustworthy of workers, and the well regarded by all. If ever there was a young man that you would want to emulate, it would be Joseph. Admired and respected, he is given great authority and responsibility in every position. All the while, going from each bad circumstance, to something worse. This is one man that some would call "unlucky." In fact, some might say that if it weren't for "bad luck" Joseph would have no "luck" at all.

Beloved, this week's Scripture portion reveals to us something you likely already know: luck has nothing to do with it. It is about miketz [at the end]. The verse just prior to where our parasha begins says,

Yet the chief butler did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.
Genesis 40:23

The butler forgot Joseph. Did G-d forget him as well? Like a finely woven tapestry, the Torah is drawing you into the story. It wants you to ask the question. It is demanding that you ask the question. Go ahead, ask it. The Torah has the answer to the question that every man and women of G-d has asked, "Why do bad things happen to good people?"

Ah, HaShem loves this question when asked by one of His own because He loves to tell you the answer. It is about miketz. It is about revealing what someone is "made of."

The first place we read of miketz is in Genesis 4:3:

And in the process of time [miketz] it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to HaShem.
Genesis 4:3

And G-d said unto Noah, The end [miketz] of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.
Genesis 6:13

And it came to pass at the end [miketz] of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made:
Genesis 8:6

You can see that miketz is used to define the end of a period of time. What time? In all ten instances of the word miketz used in the Torah, each defines the end of a time of testing. The Master Assayer has placed one of His creations into a crucible, and revealed the purity or the dross. In the case of Cain, he failed that test. Dross was all of what was left. In the case of the generation of the Flood, only eight survived - the rest, the dross, were swept away. In the case of Noah, he and his family survived the test.

Miketz is more than simply the end point to a period of testing. Lest we begin to think that these men and women are merely mice placed within a maze to test their abilities, we need to always remember what Genesis 20:23 says, and then implies, "... the chief butler did not remember Joseph, but forgot him"... but G-d did not.

Remember the promises that HaShem made to Abraham? A Seed, a Land, a Blessing? Remember how He told him that his descendants would be strangers in a foreign land?

Then He said to Abram: "Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions."
Genesis 15:13-14

Joseph is a part of the plan. All the awful things that have happened so far in Joseph's life have happened because there was a plan, and HaShem had decreed Joseph's role. Surely, this miketz [at the end] is the end of Joseph's trial that serves a part of HaShem's plan of redemption. But that is only one level, there is something far more personal. This trial was for Joseph. It was not a trial to take one of dubious character, and improve him - although difficult things teach important lessons. No, beloved, this miketz marks the end of Joseph's trial of character revelation. In all the years that precede our parasha, we are given evidence of the consistency of Joseph's character. In all the horrible circumstances, Joseph is exemplary. It is now time for finishing the story. This week's portion tells us in plain and unmistakable terms that Joseph's descent into Egypt was not by accident, or "bad luck" - and neither is his meteoric rise. It is by design. The G-d of the Universe did not forget Joseph, and whether he was in the dark pit, or the cruel prison - or on the throne of Egypt... HaShem was with him.

Beloved, there is a miketz for each of us. If you follow the footsteps of Yeshua, if you follow Him in obedience to HaShem's Torah, then you are being tested. Like Joseph, you may have reason to feel alone. The very reason why you are shunned may be because you have chosen to take HaShem at His Word. Fellow believers may have called you a heretic. Family members may roll their eyes when you speak of the commandments of the Almighty. If you are not Jewish, friends may call you "Jew wannabe" behind your back. If you are Jewish, friends may wonder why you can't seem to come out from "under the old law." Some may snicker at your tzitzit, or make fun of your observance of the commandments. Maybe they call you a legalist, or worse, "a Pharisee" (personally, I like that one - I am honored to be named among men like Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus, and Paul). Maybe they think your keeping and honoring the Shabbat is dangerous.

Maybe it is for some other reason that you find yourself like Joseph, in circumstances that are dark and lonely because you have been faithful to your Master. Beloved, this week's parasha holds hope for you. Joseph is your model, and his life is evidence that although the butler may have forgotten, HaShem does not. You are not alone. HaShem put you there, and in due time, the miketz will come, and everyone will know the truth: you are not alone!

Like Joseph, continue to live the life of Torah, the life of Messiah, wherever you are and in whatever circumstances you find yourself. You are a part of the plan. HaShem remembers, and He pays special attention to those who suffer wrongfully for His righteousness' sake.

As you study this week's parasha, rejoice in the fact that Joseph is exalted. He is not only a marvelous example for all those who desire to live faithfully to G-d - he is a pre-figure of our Messiah. Yeshua too was alone, and mistreated because of His faithfulness; and yet one day He will sit on His throne in Jerusalem and every knee will bow to Him. Even so, come quickly HaShem Yeshua.

Recently, I had a conversation with a person about a group that lives obedient to the Torah. The comment made by the person was, "We have some real problems with [fill in the blank] in what they are teaching." Now, this person was not saying this for reasons of heretical doctrine, or immorality, or even from firsthand knowledge. No, the only reason that it was brought up, was because the group in question takes Yeshua's words as literal. I was immediately impressed with these words of the Master,

Do not think that I came to destroy the Torah or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the Torah till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:17-19

Like Joseph, the group we were discussing had an accusation leveled against them. They were criticized for the very reason that they seek to honor HaShem not only with their lips, and their hidden thoughts, but expressed in loving obedience to His Torah. How ironic! Joseph was imprisoned wrongly because of his faithfulness to his slave master Potiphar. I was encouraged as I considered this, because I remembered that there is a blessing that accompanies those who find themselves persecuted because they love the words of HaShem.

You are not alone, beloved.

How blessed are those who are persecuted because they pursue righteousness! for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. How blessed you are when people insult you and persecute you and tell all kinds of vicious lies about you because you follow me! Rejoice, be glad, because your reward in heaven is great - they persecuted the prophets before you in the same way.
Matthew 5:10-11

It is my prayer that I am not persecuted for my own failings - but for HaShem's righteousness sake. It is my prayer for you as well. There is a miketz.

Haftarat Miketz - 'At the end' (1Kings 3:15-4:1)

When we read that Joseph was able to interpret Pharaoh's dream regarding the seven years of plenty and the seven years of famine, we almost gloss over the obvious: how foolish were Pharaoh's magicians that they could not figure this dream out? Really, is this one that tough, as dreams go? In fact, the midrash in commenting on this portion suggests that Pharaoh's magicians came up with a totally silly interpretation about having seven daughters born, and seven daughters die. RASHI, the Twelfth Century sage, notes the midrash and comments that indeed the magicians, if they gave that interpretation, were blinded. Their message to the Pharaoh was silly. On the other hand, RASHI also notes that Joseph's correct interpretation of Pharaoh's dream is not that difficult to come up with.

RASHI, as is often the case, makes a great point. We sometimes think that godly wisdom and discernment must be novel or somehow off-the-wall. This is a grave error. HaShem gives wisdom to His people. Sometimes that wisdom is foolishness to those around. Other times, that wisdom is seen as profound to those around. Beloved, sometimes G-d just makes fools out of the ungodly, and makes the righteous seem smarter than they are. Regardless, Joseph understood that what was revealed regarding Pharaoh's dream was something that G-d chose to reveal - and absent that revelation man was "in the dark."

So Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, "It is not in me; G-d will give Pharaoh an answer of peace."
Genesis 41:16

Joseph may have understood that the answer to Pharaoh's dream was not too difficult, but at the same time that without the aid of the Almighty, even those things that are not too difficult, are unattainable. This is an important lesson for all of us. The difficulty of the task is not what demands the miraculous work of our loving Father. It is us (unworthy servants) that always require the miraculous work of the Almighty.

That is where the reading from the Prophets comes in. This week's haftarah comes from 1Kings 3:15-4:1. The sages connected Parashat Miketz with this Scripture portion because Solomon had a dream (of G-d's favor), and that Solomon's wisdom brings him the honor of all Israel, and of the world. And yet, when you read the beginning of Ecclesiastes, you have to wonder about the "wisdom of Solomon" - the wisest man. At the end of Ecclesiastes, in absolute simplicity he makes the wisest of all statements uttered by a man:

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear G-d and keep His commandments, for this is man's all.
Ecclesiastes 12:13

This week's haftarah gives an account of how two harlots with come to Solomon to have him render a judgment. Both had sons. One woman had rolled over her child in the night and killed it. She had substituted the other woman's child for hers and now the woman whose son was still living was complaining about the switch. Solomon listened to the women and then declares that the child should be cut in half and half given to each. At that the rightful mother relinquishes the living baby in order to thus save its life. Solomon of course sees that the true mother would of course want to preserve her son regardless of the injustice to her and gives the child back to its rightful mother.

Just like Joseph's interpretation of Pharaoh's dream, so Solomon's discernment seems somewhat obvious. It does not take "rocket science" to figure this out. This is basic observation of human nature. And yet, look at what comes from this account. It is at the end of the haftarah portion for this week:

So the king answered and said, "Give the first woman the living child, and by no means kill him; she is his mother." And all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had rendered; and they feared the king, for they saw that the wisdom of G-d was in him to administer justice. So King Solomon was king over all Israel.
1Kings 3:27-4:1

What are we to learn from this? Sometimes the wisdom from above will seem foolish to those around. Other times it will be seen for what it is - G-d's wisdom. Sometimes HaShem gives favor to His people in the sight of all the people, not because they are that great, but simply because His favor is seen in them. Which you rather have, G-d-given "smarts" and the talent, or the effects of G-d-given "smarts" and talent? Certainly our wise G-d works in both ways.

The message to me personally is this: I long for HaShem's favor. I understand that all that I do that is righteous comes by His strength alone - even those things that seem elementary and simple. With His favor, I may seem more righteous, brighter, and wise than I really am. What should matter to me is simply that HaShem receives all the praise.

Solomon was the wisest of men when He depended upon HaShem for wisdom and discernment. Do you want the favor of the Almighty? Fear Him, depend upon Him, obey Him. He will show you favor, and you will have favor in the eyes of the people around you. It may surprise you. Just remember from Whom it comes, and do not be wise in your own eyes.

Pray for wisdom and discernment. He gives to all freely.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of G-d, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
Ya'akov [James] 1:5

Prayer Focus for Miketz - 'Binah' [Wisdom and Discernment]

The fourth blessing of the Shemoneh Esrei (also known as the Amidah), is for wisdom and discernment. In it, we thank G-d that He is the source of all wisdom. We bless Him for giving wisdom and discernment to frail mortals like us.

You graciously endow man with wisdom
and teach insight to a frail mortal.
Endow us graciously from Yourself with
wisdom, insight, and discernment.
Blessed are You, HaShem,
gracious Giver of wisdom.

-- ArtScroll Translation

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