Photo Credit: Asher Scwartz

{Originally posted to Rabbi Weinberg’s website,  The Foundation Stone }

The youth who, “interpreted for each in accordance with his dream (Genesis 41:12),” understood that even the best dream interpretation must be reinterpreted. The first hint is when we read that Joseph did not think of them as “His dreams,” but as, “the dreams he had dreamed (42:9).” When, “Joseph’s brothers came and they bowed to him, faces to the ground (Verse 6),” ready to purchase bundles of wheat, his first dream (37:7) was fully realized, his second (37:9), partially so. Unrecognized by his brothers, “acting as a stranger toward them,” he wondered if he was recognizable to the boy who dreamed, the character in his dreams. Two decades later, Joseph realized that he had to reinterpret his dreams.

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Sold as a slave, rising in the ranks of Potiphar’s household, seduced by the woman of the house, thrown into a prison pit, Joseph remained faithful to the dreamer. Raised from the pit to become viceroy of Egypt, “the provider to all the people of the land,” he no longer was the youth who played with, “the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah (37:3).” He wore royal robes instead of an Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and issued edicts rather than, “bring evil reports to his father.” Perhaps, if his brothers could not recognize him, he had veered off his original path; he was not the youth of the dreams. The dreams became, “”the dreams he had dreamed,” no longer, his dreams. The man who reinterpreted his identity chose to reinterpret his dreams.

The man before whom the brothers bowed was not the youthful dreamer. The dreams were not about him; the reinterpreted Joseph was not the character in the dreams, nor, was he the dreamer. The dreams were about something beyond the dreamer. They were no longer the dreams that kept him going through years of slavery and prison. The dreams had to be interpreted as he was now.

The family of Mattityahu, the Hasmoneans, reinterpreted themselves from descendants of a High Priest serving in the Temple into warriors ready to wage battle against the mighty Syrian-Greeks. When they entered the Temple with their swords and spears, wearing, not the priestly garments, but clothes bloodied in battle, and found a single jar of oil sealed by a High Priest, they were unrecognizable to the people they were a year earlier. Who were they now? What became the nature of their dreams?

“You delivered the strong into the hands of the weak, the impure into the hands of the pure, and the wanton into the hands of the diligent students of Your Torah.” They had just won a major battle, and yet they still saw themselves as weak, pure, and Torah students. “Weak,” could not possibly mean to them what it meant before their first battle. “Weak,” meant, although quite strong and courageous, they were still vulnerable. If the definition of “weak” changed, so must have, “the pure,” and, “students of Your Torah.” It is one thing for a priest wearing holy clothes to perceive himself as pure; it is quite another matter for that same person to sense his purity after killing people in battle. The Torah student sitting in Yeshiva is not the same person studying Torah after battle.

The Hasmoneans, reinterpreted Cohanim, realized they also had to reinterpret their dreams. It is the light of that reinterpretation that is illuminated by the Chanukah candles. It is the spotlight we shine on the changes and growth of the past year so that we too, can reinterpret our dreams into something far beyond who we were before the reinterpretation of the year. The light of the Menorah is, as it was in the Temple, “a light that shined outward, far beyond the Temple walls,” illuminating how we can reinterpret our dreams, our homes, our lives.

“They established these days of Chanukah to give thanks.” I give thanks for the many blessings that constantly compel me to reinterpret my dreams and my life, and for how enriching are those reinterpretations.

Please go to TheFoundationStone.org to find commentaries on the Hallel, special Kavanot for each day, and spiritual exercises to trigger new and greater dreams.

Shabbat Shalom, and a Chanukah filled with gratitude and dreams.

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Rabbi Simcha L. Weinberg, is founder and President of the leading Torah website, The Foundation Stone. Rav Simcha is an internationally known teacher of Torah and has etablished yeshivot on several continents.