Friday, November 29, 2013

Random Musing Before Shabbat–Miketz 5774–To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

I have mentioned, recently, to a few of my friends, my own recent awareness of my dreams. Unlike many of you, despite having my share of stress and anxiety in my life, I have almost never had a problem sleeping. Those few times (and I can probably count them on one hand) I have experienced a night or two of insomnia are probably attributable to something different in my diet or medication, and not to anxiety. Oh, yes, sometimes I might be up late at night before a major trip or event, yet usually due to excitement and not worry, and, if I chose, I could probably have slept. In addition to having the good fortune to rarely have trouble sleeping, I also seem to be a consistent dreamer.

My dreams are not something of which I have kept track or about which I have kept a journal over the course of my life, so I cannot with any certainty state that I have always dreamed, and that I remember them with any regularity. I can say, with certainty, that this has surely been the case for the last five years or so. I seem to dream almost every night, and do seem to be able to recall the basic substance of most of my dreams for at least a few moments after awakening.

So it is, then, that upon reflection, I began to realize that all my dreams seem to follow a somewhat similar pattern, or involve similar themes. I am quite certain this similarity has been present in all my dreams for the last few years. I am equally certain that I have experienced dreams following those same themes and patterns on occasion over at least the adult period of my life. I cannot and do not recall, with any certainty, other periods of my life when my dreams seemed to be as clearly regular and following some sort of pattern or theme.

Obviously, my dreams are telling me something. I’m not going to get into the specifics of what I dream. Suffice to say that both for myself, and for the friends with whom I have shared my dreams and their patterns and themes, the apparent “meaning” and “message” is obvious. My dreams are, quite frankly, a giant blinking neon sign with an arrow pointing to a particular aspect of my behavior and approach to life. It is a behavior and approach that could benefit from some close examination and perhaps change. My dreams reveal both a clear weakness and the underlying psychological beliefs that continue to propel me into the same sometimes problematic behaviors over and over. From a psychological standpoint, my dreams reveal that I clearly am not convinced that an internal change on my part would be sufficient to change outcomes. They reveal a deep-seated belief that, as far as some things go, I am not in complete control of my destiny. In any case, my dreams would be a field day for any Freudian, Jungian, Hallian, or Domhoffian.

Whatever dreams really are, and however they work, there is zero doubt in my mind that my dreams over the last few years are a reflection of a particular aspect of my behavior and personality that seems to be screaming for attention (or simply needs to be shed nightly.) I don’t know that I would call these dreams prophetic, but they are certainly trying to tell me something, and I ignore their message at my own peril. I need a Joseph. Or do I?

Anyone with even a little intelligence would have been able to interpret the dreams that Joseph interpreted (er, excuse me, which G”d made known and understandable.) The dreams of the baker and the wine steward weren’t that hard to understand. Pharaoh’s dreams were open and shut cases – which begs the question of why no one had been able to interpret them successfully for Pharaoh before Joseph. I mean, c’mon, the imagery is pretty obvious, is it not? 7 fats cows, 7 skinny cows. 7 fertile corn stalks, 7 blighted corn stalks? A child could figure those out. These dreams are a message from G”d revealing what is going to happen. Or is that just hindsight?

Let’s go back to last week’s parasha. When this dream business all started with Joseph, there was no mention of G”d. Joseph told his brothers of his two dreams, and they no trouble interpreting them for themselves, without any help for G”d or Joseph. They were clearly either omens that Joseph would lord over his brothers, or the boastful lies (utilizing dreams as a mechanism to give his ideas a little weight) of a brother with delusions of grandeur. I think it is important to note that Joseph did not attempt to interpret or explain his dreams to his brothers. He just shared them. No doubt he was pretty certain how they would interpret them, but also pretty blind and naïve as to how they might feel about the implications of the dreams.

Now imprisoned with some of Pharaoh’s courtiers, he invokes G”d as the source of dream interpretation (and the very source of the dreams.) Yes, it is revealing that Joseph does not say “tell me your dreams and I will interpret them” but instead says “Surely G”d can interpret. Tell me your dreams.”

Humility or really slick move? Me, I’m inclined to think the latter. Humility and Joseph do not seem to coexist. Rather than portraying himself as just another dime-a-dozen dream interpreter, Joseph portrays himself as the conduit through which G”d will interpret dreams.

So many ifs. Had Joseph merely portrayed himself an another run-of-the-mill dream interpreter, might the forgetful wine steward have continued to be forgetful, never mentioning Joseph to Pharaoh? (Actually, it seems to be Joseph’s being a Hebrew, as well as a successful dream interpreter that were his most noticeable characteristics for the wine steward.)

Is G”d sending me messages in my dreams? Is my subconscious sending me messages in my dreams? Are my dreams simply random events and I am eisegeting more meaning into them than they deserve, and extrapolating from them patterns which don’t really exist? What answers, if any, does this parasha hold for me in helping me understand the role and place of my dreams? Are our dreams worthy of interpretation?

Can one interpret one’s own dreams? Is it a wise or safe practice? Can we trust others to help us interpret our dreams or must we be wary of their own biases (and I apply this equally to amateurs and professionals.)

Judaism has a long history on the subject of dreams and dream interpretation. Early parts of the Talmud are replete with dream interpretation. It also tells us that a dream is one sixtieth of a prophecy. (So if I dream the same dream 60 times, or have similar dreams 60 times or more, then what? Have my dreams of late become more than mere prophecy? Can dreams create reality?)

True to Jewish form, the rabbis of the Talmud tell us that dreams can just be mere reflections of what we think about in our daily lives, or they can be pure flights of fancy. Despite using dreams and references to dreams constantly in their arguments, and imparting meaning to them, the rabbis also say that dreams have nothing to tell us about good or bad. He’s right, he’s right, they’re all right. And all wrong.

I may or may not decide to act upon my awareness of the patterns of my dreams (or such patterns that I believe exist.) I don’t want to become fixated upon my dreams, I don’t want them to become the song stuck inside my head. So perhaps, this Shabbat, having written about my dreams here, I’ll try to forget all about them and instead enjoy and surround myself with the love, peace, and joy of Shabbat.

Sweet dreams and Shabbat Shalom,

©2013 by Adrian A. Durlester

Other Musings on this parasha:

Miketz 5773 - B'li Meilitz
Miketz 5772 - A Piece of That Kit Kat Bar
Miketz 5771-What's Bothering...Me?
Miketz/Hanukkah 5769 - Redux 5763 - Assimilating Assimilation
Miketz/Hanukah 5768 Learning From Joseph and His Brothers (revised from 5757)
Miketz 5767-Clothes Make the Man?
Miketz 5766-Eizeh Hu Khakham?
Miketz 5757& 5761-Would You Buy A Used Car From This Guy?
Miketz 5763/5764/5765-Assimilating Assimilation

No comments: