Friday, November 26, 2010

Dream Solving

Starting with Joseph's own dreams in this week's parasha, we are presented with 3 sets of dreams. In each of these sets there are 2 dreams. Joseph "solves" two of these sets, but does not appear to spell out the meaning of his own dreams. The explanation for the dreams is given by the brothers, and then by Jacob - but it is an explanation that Jacob himself knows is incorrect (The moon can not be Rachel).

Let us see what happens if we try and apply some of Joseph's own techniques on his own dream. 

When Joseph solves Pharaoh's two dreams, he explains that the reason Pharaoh dreamt two dreams was because the dream's solution has been "established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass. ( Gen 41:32). So, why isn't the same thing true with Joseph's dreams? Joseph had two similar dreams too, wouldn't their repeating signify that his dreams were meant to be fulfilled quickly?

The other rule of thumb in both the dreams of the cupbearer and the baker, as well as Pharos dreams is that a repeat of an object signifies time. 3 baskets = 3 days, 3 cups = 3 days, 7 cows = 7 years etc. What about Joseph's dreams? (This point is first made by  Rav Spieglman's weekly parasha shiur. I've kept his basic ideas, but have changed some of the particulars.)

Let us answer the first question. God did act fast to make sure Joseph becomes king. God made sure that Joseph finds his brother by sending an angel (as is commonly interpreted) to direct Joseph to his brothers. He then makes sure that an Ishmalite/Midianite caravan is travelling right next to the pit in which his brothers threw him into - quickly enough that the sale of Joseph happens before Reuven comes back to save him. Sending Joseph to Eqypt was the beginning of the path the will lead to his dreams coming true. In effect God makes sure that Joseph reaches Egypt

The answer to the second question is more speculative. Joseph's two dreams do not match up. In his first dream there are 12 brothers, and 12 Bundles of wheat (The number of bundles is not specified in the dream). In the second dream we have the Sun, the Moon and 11 stars. Let us focus on the second dream. All together we have 13 objects/stars. If we were to interpret each star as a year (including the sun and the moon) we have an interesting possible solution. Joseph was 17 when he was sold into slavery. He is 30 when he is made King over Egypt. (Gen, 41:46). 13 years would match up nicely to becoming king of egypt - ruler at that time of the the biggest empire on earth. What about dream #1? there are only 11 bundles of hay bowing down to Joseph own bundle! well two years before Joseph became king, Joseph solved the dreams of the baker and the cupbearer. We all know the famous Rashi that will open next weeks parasha, stating that Joseph was punished for 2 years because he did not have Bitachon in Hashem. 

If the repeating of a dream is meant to signify that they are to become true quickly, why are the two dreams not identical? A possible answer is that the dreams represent two close but different possible outcomes. In both of them Joseph will become a king. However in one of them he will rule in 11 years, and in the other only in 13 years. The same is true for Pharaoh's dreams. The two dreams are not identical. In Pharaoh's first dream He tells Joseph :
41:20  The lean and ill-favored cattle ate up the first seven fat cattle,

41:21  and when they had eaten them up, it couldn't be known that they had eaten them, but they were still ill-favored, as at the beginning.

In the second dream there is no corresponding mention that no memory was left of the first seven heads of grain.  The first dream was what would happen if Pharaoh did not gather the grain during the first seven good years. The famine would have been so terrible that no one would have remembered the years of plenty. The second is what will happen if he does. (The explanation of this last point is longer in Rav Spieglman's article).

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