Dreams, Goals and Anchors

This week’s Torah portion of Vayeshev talks about Joseph and his dreams. Joseph was a true prophet in that his dreams actually signified things that were going to happen in the future. However the interpretation of his dreams led to some life-changing events.

When looking at the dream where Joseph ruled over his brothers, their frustration at his “special treatment” by their father Jacob, and their very real fear that he would actually rule over them, we can see that their actions of throwing him into a pit and selling his to the Ishmaelites, created the path leading to that very reality.

Whilst interpreting Pharoah’s dream and bringing to light the impending famine, Joseph set Egypt on a direction where they became the safest of places to be, in terms of food security and preparation for the worrisome years ahead.

All of Joseph’s dreams have a connection to each other as we watch them unfold and have the hindsight to know what happened and when.

Nowadays when we talk about dreams, we are generally thinking of either the weird and wonderful ramblings of our sleeping minds, or our own aspirations.

Neither of those interpretations of the word dream touch on the prophetic. Yet we do have a way to change that.

A dream is just a wish without action but when you target your dream with a plan you have a goal. This is where we need to be.

We have to learn from Joseph that our dreams have power. We can harness that power by setting ourselves goals in order to achieve our actual wishes.

It’s impossible for us to achieve and move forward positively in life without knowing where we actually want to go. The image of being tossed about like a random piece of driftwood in turbulent waters comes to mind as we think about how some people just find themselves in situations without knowing or understanding how they got there.

Without creating an anchor for ourselves, we continue to bob about on the water at whim of the current.

Joseph did not choose to dream of ruling over his brothers yet unfortunately due to the favouritism shown to him by Jacob, this was perceived by them as a very real threat.

There is a discussion about Joseph and whether or not he was even aware of the trouble he caused by talking so freely about his dreams. That maybe he just didn’t know when to keep quiet and blurted out his thoughts without reflection.

Perhaps Jacob didn’t favour Joseph just become he was Rachel’s son, maybe Jacob as a father was worried. Jacob, concerned about his child who just didn’t seem to understand how to relate to his brothers, tried to protect him, and distract him. Thus inadvertently causing more jealousy.

We even have evidence in Egypt that Joseph just didn’t get it. He got into trouble with his boss to the degree that he was put in jail and when he told the butler and the baker the meaning of their dreams, he had no qualms about telling the baker that he was going to die. Interpersonal relationships at this time were not Josephs strength.

So Joseph was straightforward and told people things that they may not want to hear. He shared his own dreams and didn’t worry about the consequences.

There is a lot to learn from Joseph.

We learn that we should reflect and think things through before we speak. Nonetheless, we should not be afraid to be honest about our own thoughts. Our ethics and our innermost beliefs should guide us in how we share our own interpretations, of both the situations that we experience, and the events that surround us.

So as we consider this concept of dreams and the goals we aim to pursue, consider that consequences can be far-reaching. Joseph started his story as a spoiled child but ended up as the Viceroy of Ancient Egypt.

Speaking our own truths, working towards our goals and remaining anchored, these are all things that we can learn from this week’s portion of Vayeshev.

About the Author
Abi Taylor-Abt is an outstanding Jewish Educator and Curriculum Developer who has worked in the field of Jewish Primary and Secondary Educational Curriculum Development for over twenty years. She is the author of Lessons in Jewish Learning - a grab and go curriculum for communities and Jewish schools. Originally from London, Abi spent time living in Israel, South Africa, England and the United States. After working in Boise, Idaho, Abi spent 5 years in Israel for the second time whilst her children served in the army. She is currently Director of Education for Yachad a combined educational endeavour between the conservative congregation of Beth Shalom and the reform community of Temple Emanu-El in Michigan, USA. A 2018 recipient of the Klein/Grinspoon Award for Excellence in Jewish Education, Abi is also awaiting the video version of her recent ELI Talk Detroit Speaker Fellowship.