Vayeshev

Genesis 37:1 – 40:23

(And He Dwelt)
Joseph tells his amazing dreams and is thrown into a pit by his brothers. Then we turn to the story of Tamar, Judah’s daughter-in-law. After Tamar is widowed by two of Judah’s sons, he witholds his third son from her, leaving her in limbo. She tricks Judah by disguising herself as a prostitute and bearing his child.

THE BLESSING

“HERE COMES THE DREAMER,” say Joseph’s brothers as they plot his murder. “We shall see what will become of his dreams!” In this week of Vayeshev, we will look to our dreams to see what has become of them. For in following those dreams, and risking everything, the blessing of our lives may be received.

Joseph, the dreamer, knows that the troubles he encounters are sent to him by God. He knows that blessing comes disguised and it is his mission to see through that disguise, to unmask the blessing even if it takes a lifetime. Somehow Joseph is blessed with the knowledge of his own radiance. He has always known that he is loved, that he is special and that he has a rich destiny to fulfill.

What prevents us from receiving this blessing of our own shining essence? What has dimmed our radiance, belittled the greatness of our souls and obscured for us the truth of just how we fit in to the great puzzle of life?

THE TORAH TEACHES US THAT GREATNESS is born through unlikely circumstances; destiny unfolds in unexpected ways. Interrupting the story of Joseph is the drama of Tamar from whose blood will come King David and the messianic consciousness to heal the world.

Tamar, caught in the injustice of a cruel system, breaks all the rules, and acts from the knowledge of her own beauty, truth and radiance. Tamar refuses to give up her dream. She risks her life to allow our dream to be birthed through her. The two children born to Tamar as a result of her dream-following and risk-taking are named “Breakthrough” (Peretz) and “Radiance” (Zerach).

Joseph, too, is blessed with the powers of Breakthrough and Radiance that come from following dreams. Vayeshev returns us to his story and it is our story as well. Fate seems to play a strange game, lifting us out of slavery, letting our beauty shine, and then sending us back to the dungeon. Yet even in prison, the dreams keep us alive and will eventually open the doors to freedom and power.

THE SPIRITUAL CHALLENGE

SOMETIMES THE GIFT of our uniqueness becomes a burden. When we receive the glory of our unique destiny, there is a danger of estrangement. We may feel lonely or alienated from societal norms. It is hard to know how to manifest our dreams when we feel so isolated. We guard ourselves from the envy of others by hiding the gift, even from ourselves.

The disjunction between ordinary life and the life of our dreams can send us spinning off too far in either of those directions. We may not have the words or the confidence to express our dreams, and so dishonor or discount them. Or we might become so in love with our dreams that we want to live only there. We can become so involved with the drama of our unique destiny that we forget our humility and interconnectedness. There is a danger in knowing that you are special, but forgetting that everyone else is just as special, just as beloved of God.

The spiritual challenge of Vayeshev invites a well-known Hasidic paradox into our pockets. In one pocket the message says, “For me the world was created.” In the other pocket the message reads, “I am but dust.” When I become too intoxicated with my own dream, I reach into the pocket of Dust. When I forget the dream I reach into the pocket of World. Sometimes I just keep both hands in my pockets, touching both truths, bathed in glory, and laughing at myself.

GUIDANCE FOR PRACTICE

As we honor Joseph, the master of dreams, it might be a good time to honor our own dreams – both the sleeping and waking ones.

RECOLLECTING

BEFORE YOU GO TO SLEEP, ask for a dream and then place a notebook and pen near your bed.

IN THE MORNING, WRITE DOWN whatever you remember from the dream, even it’s just a fragment. Let the images received in your dream inform your waking life. Share them, draw them, write about them, and learn from them.

JOSEPH TEACHES US that all interpretations belong to God. When we honor the dream, and clear a space for it to grow in our lives, its Divine Truth will blossom and bear fruit.

CHANT: WAKING DREAM

THE PRACTICE OF CHANTING is a good way to prepare the mind for a waking dream. Begin by preparing an imaginary altar before you. Place on that altar the memory of your earliest idea of what you wanted to do or be in your life. (I wanted to be an explorer – a mountain climber.)

CHANT THESE WORDS: ma y’h’yu chalomotav
(Genesis 37:21; What will become of his dreams?)

SEND THE ENERGY OF THE CHANT onto the altar of memory. Let the chant be a question that reaches your soul wisdom. (Alternatively, you could make up your own simple melody.)

CHANT FOR AT LEAST 10 MINUTES, then sit in the silence afterwards and just listen. Pay attention to any images or feelings that arise.


Torah Journeys: The Inner Path to the Promised Land
©2006 Shefa Gold. All rights reserved.