The brothers of Yosef referred to him as the “the dreamer.” (Beraishis 37:19). Although the brothers seemed to have used the title in a disparaging manner, Yosef’s life was, in fact, inextricably tied to dreams.
Yosef engendered the envy of his brothers when he shared his two dreams with them. Later he correctly interpreted the dreams of the ministers of Pharaoh, and rose to glory when he was called upon to shed light on the dreams of Pharaoh himself. The two original dreams of Yosef, and their significance in the events of the lives of the children of Yaakov, compel us to study them carefully and glean important messages from their meaning.
Yosef’s first dream (37:7) was about 11 sheaves of grain in a field bowing to the center sheaf, representing the 11 sons of Yaakov bowing to Yosef. His second dream (37:9) was all about heavenly matters. In this dream, the sun, the moon and the stars were bowing to him.
Yosef aroused the envy of his brothers when he related these dreams to them. However, Yaakov Avinu had a different “interpretation” of the dreams of his son. While he adopted an external pose of annoyance with Yosef, the Torah relates that Yaakov “guarded” the dreams and anxiously waited for them to come to fruition (37:11; see Rashi).
This brings us to question – what did Yaakov Avinu see in the dreams of Yosef that the brothers missed?
Rashi lists several similarities between the lives of Yaakov and his favorite son, Yosef (Eleh toldos Yaakov, Beraishis 37:2, see Rashi). In that light, it is interesting to note that Yaakov Avinu also dreamed of the same two elements – earthly and heavenly matters – when he was sleeping in Bais El on his way to the house of Lavan (28:12). He dreamed of a ladder standing on earth that reached the heavens. However, that is where the similarities ended. Yaakov’s dream was all about transcending the earthly and climbing the ladder to dwell in the presence of Hashem. The central figures in Yaakov’s dream were the angels.
Yosef’s dreams were about Yosef, with all participants in the dreams paying homage to him.
That being the case, the brothers of Yosef seemed to be correct in their contempt for their brother’s view of things. Why then, did Yaakov guard the dreams and expect positive outcomes from them?
The answer may be that Yaakov understood the deeper meaning conveyed in the dreams of his son. Yosef was thinking of man in his highest state – as the center of creation itself. Yosef was not egotistical; he was thinking about the awesome responsibility of man to serve Hashem. Yosef, who was to become the visionary leader of the entire world, and who was the virtual firstborn of Yaakov, was dreaming of the limitless potential of the human being to become the center of creation. After all, Hashem created this world – earthly and heavenly things – so that man can serve Him and thereby bring fulfillment to His world (Rashi, Beraishis 1:1, Beraishis Rabbah 1:6). Yaakov’s dreams were about angels; Yosef dreamed about heavenly humans.
Yaakov realized that the brothers misunderstood Yosef. He was upset that Yosef shared his vision with his siblings and aroused their envy. At the same time, Yaakov was “guarding” the dream and hoping for its eventual fulfillment. As Rashi explains, Yaakov was hoping for these lofty dreams to come true.
Passing The Tests
Over the following 22 years, Yosef was severely put to the test. He was sold as a slave and sent to Egypt, demoralized and alone. He was tested by the wife of Potifar, and then spent 12 years in a dungeon. Having passed the trial of loneliness and deprivation, he was then faced with a greater challenge: glory and royalty. Yet Yosef remained the humble servant of Hashem throughout these divergent phases in his life (see Rashi, Shemos 1:5). His faith in Hashem remained intact, and of all our great patriarchs and tribes, he alone earned the title of Yosef HaTzadik, Yosef The Righteous one.
Yaakov’s confidence in his son was rewarded. Yosef emerged from his trials and tribulations as the deserving leader of the world. The sheaves of the world, the people, were paying homage to him as they came to Egypt to purchase grain for their families. More importantly, the heavenly objects were bowing to him as well. Yosef had brought meaning to the world of Hashem. All celestial bodies joined in paying tribute to Yosef – and to his Creator, Hashem.
Yosef received the double portion that a bechor is entitled to, when two of his sons became shevatim of Yaakov
Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is the founder and Menahel of Yeshiva Darchei Noam of Monsey, and the founder and Program Director of Agudath Israel’s Project Y.E.S. His presentation on “Different Strokes – Helping Your Child Succeed by Understanding His/Her Learning Profile,” is now available on CD.
For more information on this and his “Raising Your Adolescent Children CD/DVD, visit www.rabbihorowitz.com, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 845-352-7100 x 133.