Rabbi David Walk
A few years back Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the former Chief Rabbi of the
We all remember Yosef's two dreams first about the sheaves of grain and then about the stars in heaven. In both of those dreams all of the family members bow down to Yosef, making him the recognized leader in both areas of existence: the physical world and the spiritual realm. When the brothers plotted against him they stated clearly, 'Let's see what comes of his dreams (Genesis 37:20).' They assumed that the book was closed on Yosef's aspirations. But Yosef never gave up. Last week, as soon as he saw his brothers standing before him in supplication, metaphorical hats in hands, the verse records, 'Joseph knew who they were, but they didn't know who he was. Joseph, remembering the dreams he had dreamed about them, said, "You're spies. You've come to look for our weaknesses. (42:8-9)'" Many commentaries, the Ramban in the lead, explain that Yosef immediately decided to force the dreams come true. He would arrange through his machinations first for all eleven brothers to bow down to him, as in dream #1, and only then for Ya'akov and Leah, the sun and moon of dream #2, to come to
In this week's Torah reading the touching moment finally arrives when Ya'akov reunites with his beloved son after decades apart. 'Joseph gave orders for his chariot and went to
With great trepidation, I disagree. I think that Yosef intervened. Yosef knew that the fulfillment of the dreams would have sealed his destiny to be
This all happened in an instant recorded with the expression v'lo yachol Yosef l'hitapek (Joseph could not hold himself back, 45:1). The Rav interpreted that to mean hashgacha made him let down his disguise; Divine intervention overwhelmed his determination to maintain the charade. I think it means Yosef decided that he couldn't hold back the truth from his brothers any longer because it was more important to acknowledge Yehuda's growth and acceptance by the family. For the first time in a very long period, perhaps many years, he saw a greater good than the fulfillment of the dreams.
Rabbi Sacks said that Yosef was a dream master because he had the ability to implement his dreams. I think that Yosef was the dream master because he knew when to discard the dream-or maybe to discard his earlier interpretation of the dream. Yosef's descendants would attain much power and influence in the Jewish nation. After all, Yehoshua and the kings of the northern kingdom would come from his family. But the dreams could mean that his progeny would seize the power, and that ultimate control should belong elsewhere, namely to Yehuda, who had grown to command the respect of brothers and father. Ya'akov's blessing for Yehuda really says it all, 'You, O Yehuda, your brothers shall acknowledge (49:8).' And now Yosef acknowledged it, too.
We all have dreams. They are important to who we are and who we should become. We must analyze those dreams to ascertain which are worth pursuing and which require shelving. Yosef was amazing. He had the dreams, he understood the dreams, and he could implement them all. However, he also knew when to apply the brakes. So, dear reader, dream on, but relegate some to the realm of fantasy, and work hard to make the right ones come true. As Frank Sinatra crooned, 'It can happen to you.'