Jeffrey Kobrin
Looking to the Parasha to Inspire Our Parenting

Dream On

We all want our kids to have big dreams.  What quality parent wouldn’t?  We all likely also want our kids’ dreams to come true.  But what if those dreams are unrealistic or, well, dumb?  Is it wrong of us to encourage our kids to dream of playing professional basketball or of becoming astronauts?  And what about our own dreams for our kids?  When do our dreams for our children become their dreams, and when are we simply foisting those dreams onto them?  

Part of the answer is that we don’t ever really know which dreams are realistic and which are not.  In this week’s parasha of Miketz we learn that when Yosef’s brothers appeared before him, he recognized them but they had no idea who he was.  The Talmud in Yevamot, cited by Rashi, explains that Yosef had grown a beard and looked different.  I never understood this midrash: can’t everyone see that Clark Kent without glasses looks just like Superman?  How could a beard throw the brothers off?  Ramban answers that this is not about a beard, but about context: the brothers never thought that the slave they sold to the Yishmaelim would become the shalit al ha-aretz, the viceroy of the land.  They were therefore thrown off by the beard (just like the staff at the Daily Planet is thrown off by Clark’s glasses).  The brothers had last seen Yosef in a pit; they didn’t recognize him because they were now seeing him in the world of his dreams coming true.

Indeed, Yosef knew that his dreams were coming true.  Ramban further explains that Yosef engaged in mind games with his brothers, repeatedly making them return to him, not to punish them; rather, Yosef wanted to bring Binyamin into the picture so he could make his first dream of the bowing sheaves of wheat completely come true.  Only then could Yosef fully reunite the family.  His experience interpreting the dreams of others had taught him that they have to play out in a certain order.  So we should not discourage our kids’ dreams — we never know which ones may come true.

Jazz musician Jim McCartney gave his son Paul a trumpet for his fourteenth birthday, but Paul quickly traded the instrument for a guitar because his dream was to sing and play at the same time.  You don’t need to watch all eight hours of Peter Jackson’s brilliant Beatles documentary Get Back to see Paul’s talent.  Dreams can come true.   

And sometimes it’s okay to dream our kids’ dreams for them.  In Reinaldo Marcus Green’s film King Richard, Richard Williams enacts his plan to mold his daughters Venus and Serena into tennis champions.  Richard, together with his wife Oracene, does not force the girls to live out his own unfulfilled dreams — Will Smith’s Richard dreams on behalf of his children.   He dreams big.  And, like Paul McCartney and Yosef, they grow into those dreams, and the dreams come true.  

Yaakov definitely had big dreams for Yosef- which is why he gave him the coat and the responsibilities in the first place.  He had to grow into them, though.  It took twenty-two years of separation and growth, but Yosef fulfilled those dreams.  We have no idea how long it may take for our kids’ dreams to come true, or what seeds we may sow for them in fostering those dreams, but it’s incumbent on us as parents to encourage them in a balanced but consistently enthusiastic way.

I can’t think of a better Chanukah present.

Shabbat Shalom, Chanukah Sameach, and Chodesh Tov.

About the Author
Jeffrey Kobrin is the Rosh HaYeshiva/Head of School at the North Shore Hebrew Academy in Great Neck, New York. He has bachelors and masters degrees in English literature from Columbia University, semikha from RIETS at Yeshiva University, and a PhD in English education from Columbia University’s Teachers College. He lives in Riverdale, New York, with his wife, Michelle Greenberg-Kobrin, and their daughters.
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