Many believe "everything wonderful begins with a dream." In this week’s Torah chapter, we read about Jacob and meet him in a dream. The concept of dreams can be found in the Bible and throughout civilization in history, music, museums, literature, romantic novels and many cultural arenas.
Sigmund Freud, an Austrian Jew and world-recognized psychiatrist, was the 20th century father of psychology and Dream Analysis. His contributions and writings are quoted and revered to this day. Freud said that to dream is a normal human function. Some individuals sleepwalk, talk in their sleep, others jump up and down all night, twisting and turning in bed. Then there are people who dream once in a blue moon. Still others dream every night—sometimes non-stop. Some dream all day—they are known as day-dreamers. Some people have a secret dream life such as the famous classic literary character, "Walter Mitty." Maybe your dreams are very imaginative, like playing baseball with the Baltimore Orioles, or exotic like sipping pina coladas on the island of Tahiti under a palm tree. Perhaps your dreams are visionary like advising presidents or famous movie stars, or psychologically healing, like meeting with a deceased family member for a soul-stirring encounter, or heroic like helping David slay Goliath. Some dream that they are back in time when they were children, others go towards adventurous dreams like flying airplanes, driving submarines or praying at the Western Wall. Once I dreamed I was tangoing for hours—guess with whom….the Torah!
Countless musicians, artists and writers have explored dream states. For example, the surrealistic artist, Salvador Dali painted exotic imagery, his famous works of distorted clocks, stretched out like silly putty, play on the theme of time and fantasy. Many of his works are displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC. Or Rudyard Kipling, the famous poet and his work, "If." Kipling wrote, "If you can dream and not make dreams your master then you’ll be a man, my son…"
Remember the song and Broadway show of Don Quixote, "Man of La Mancha?" The illustrious song, "To Dream the Impossible Dream, to beat the unbeatable foe, to reach the unreachable star…." Or the politician and civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., his famous speech, "I have a dream…", a speech which inspired the masses.
Now, let’s return to the Bible and to Jacob’s dreams. In his dreams, angels are going up and down a ladder, conveying beautiful mystical imagery. What is going on here symbolically? Prayer is the ladder that connects souls and G-dhood. And although the ladder stands on the ground….when one prays, its top reaches the heavens.
At night, the bedtime shma Yisrael prayer is one of the most beautifully composed words spoken to G-d. It is in the prayer book under "Nighttime Blessings" and I highly recommend everyone to sincerely recite this pre-sleep meditation.
In conclusion, Isaiah, the prophet, had a dream. Let us hope for the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy for world peace and goodness. A world promised when, "they will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears to pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, nor will they learn war anymore." Isaiah 2:4. Or John Lennon of the Beatles expressed this similar thought of global unity when he sang: "You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope some day you’ll join us and the world will be as one."
Good Shabbos and may all your dreams be fulfilled for good.