What to do when you have bad dreams

Do you ever have bad dreams?

I think that at one point or another, we all have bad dreams. Some of them are so vivid that we wake up disturbed. Others are more of a vague memory. But either way, it’s no fun to have a bad dream.

And then we often wonder whether those dreams are a message from above. Should we be concerned that something bad is about to happen?

So first, remember that most dreams are merely a replay of the thoughts and fears we experienced during the previous day.

The Talmud brings a fascinating story of a meeting between a Talmudic sage and the Roman emperor, when the latter challenged the rabbi to predict what he was going to dream about. The rabbi, unfazed, made a bold prediction: “You will see the Persians capture you, enslave you, and force you to herd unclean animals with a golden staff.”

The emperor spent the entire day thinking about this strange dream, and sure enough he dreamed about it at night.

Other times, the connection between our thoughts during the day and our dreams at night are not as obvious.

Once, a community member, who owned a store, reached out to me. “I was dreaming that I was mugged at my store at knifepoint,” he said. “What does it mean?”

After chatting with him for a while, he recalled how on the previous day, one of the customers who walked into the store looked suspicious to him. That split-second thought of “maybe this person is up to no good” turned into a full-fledged nightmare of being mugged.

Second, and perhaps even more important, is that regardless of what the dream meant, we have the power to turn it into a good dream.

That takes us back to another Talmudic story, told by Rabbi Bena’a:

One time, I dreamed a dream and went to each of them to interpret it. What one interpreted for me the other did not interpret for me, and, nevertheless, all of the interpretations were realized in me, to fulfill that which is stated: “All dreams follow the mouth.”

In that vein, when the Rebbe was once asked about bad dreams, he encouraged the dreamer to interpret them for the good, “the true good: Torah and mitzvahs, as an encouragement and a call to go from strength to strength in learning Torah and fulfilling mitzvahs.”

It’s quite amazing to realize that our words and perceptions have so much power.

So next time you have a bad dream, look for ways to turn it into a positive message. A sickness can be interpreted as the yearning of the soul to get higher. Death might represent the removal of an obstacle from your path. Be creative, come up with positive and encouraging messages for yourself.

Because isn’t life all about taking challenging situations and turning them into blessings?

About the Author
Rabbi Mendy Kaminker is the Chabad Rabbi of Hackensack, and an editorial member of Chabad.org.
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