The brothers of Yosef referred to him as the “The Dreamer” (Bereishis 37:19). And, while the brothers seemed to have used the title in a disparaging manner, Yosef’s life was, in fact, inextricably tied to dreams.
He engendered the envy of his brothers when he shared his two dreams with them. He correctly interpreted the dreams of the ministers of Pharaoh, and later 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 (Bereishis 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 (Bereishis 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 “V’Aviv shamar es ha’davar – And his father [Yaakov] ‘guarded’ the dreams [and anxiously waited for them to come to fruition] (Bereishis 37:11; see Rashi).
Yaakov Avinu Waiting And Watching
This causes 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, Bereishis 37:2, see Rashi). In that light, it is interesting to note that Yaakov Avinu also dreamed of the same two elements, gashmius and ruchnius – earthly and heavenly matters – when he was sleeping in Beis El, on his way to the house of Lavan (Bereishis 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 in the dreams of his son. Yosef was thinking of man in his highest state – as the center of the briah (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 bechor (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 shleimus (fulfillment) to His world (Rashi Bereishis 1:1, Bereishis 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 Mitzrayim, 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 avos and shevatim, he alone earned the title of Yosef HaTzaddik, 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 Mitzrayim 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.
Best wishes for a Gutten Shabbos.
Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is the founder and dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam of Monsey and the founder and director of Agudath Israel’s Project Y.E.S.