From: Rob in Passaic, NJ
What does Judaism say about dreams?
Judaism says a lot about dreams. Jacob dreamed of angels ascending and descending a ladder reaching to heaven, revealing to him the site of the Holy Temple. Joseph dreamed that the sun, moon, and eleven stars bowed before him, portending his future greatness. King Solomon also had a dream in which
However, not all dreams are real. Our Sages taught that many dreams are caused by physical influences such as the food we eat, and by things we do or think during the day. Once the King of Persia, who was at war with Rome, approached one of the Rabbis saying, "You Jews are supposed to be very clever; tell me what I’ll see in my dream." The Sage replied, "You’ll see the Romans taking you captive and making you grind date-pits in a golden mill." The King thought about it all day, and, sure enough, he dreamed of it that night.
Other dreams are caused by spiritual influences. The Zohar states that as people sleep, the soul rises to a higher plane. There, it encounters either negative or positive forces. This experience is transmitted to the imagination and perceived as a dream. An experience with a negative force results in an untrue dream, of which it is said "dreams speak falsehood" (Zechariah 10:2).
Interaction with a positive force results in a true dream, referred to in the verse "In a dream, in a vision of the night…G-d opens the ears of man" (Job 33:15). However, it is interesting that Joseph’s dream included the moon, which symbolized his mother, even though she was no longer living at the time. From here our Sages derived that even true dreams have inaccuracies. Which reminds me of a story:
One night, Yankel, the tailor of Pletstk, dreamed he saw a bridge. By the bridge stood a sentry. Under the bridge lay a buried treasure.
When he awoke, Yankel took some food and a pick-ax and set off. After many days, he came to a bridge, and under the bridge was the very sentry he'd dreamed of, standing there. Yankel took his pick-ax and began to dig. "What in blazes!" cried the soldier. Yankel told the soldier of his dream, whereupon the soldier broke out laughing.
"You fool," the soldier said. "If I believed in dreams, I'd be off to a little Jewish town called Pletstk; I'd break down the door of a little tailor named Yankel; I'd push over his cast-iron stove, and if dreams be true I'd find there a buried treasure. Ha! Ha! Ha!"
Yankel gasped. He snatched up his tools, ran home, and pushed aside his cast-iron stove. There it was — the buried treasure!
- Genesis 28:12, 37:5; Kings I 3:5
- Berachot 55a, 56a
- Zohar, Parshat Vayeshev p. 412
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