Chanukah Sameach, Happy Chanukah! In this week’s Torah portion Yosef is called out of prison. The impetus for this is the king of Egypt’s dream. The Pharaoh has a dream which perturbs him and he cannot find a satisfying interpretation for it.
The portion starts with the line: וַיְהִ֕י מִקֵּ֖ץ שְׁנָתַ֣יִם יָמִ֑ים וּפַרְעֹ֣ה חֹלֵ֔ם וְהִנֵּ֖ה עֹמֵ֥ד עַל־הַיְאֹֽר׃
After two years’ time, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile.
These two years Yosef had been in prison.
What is the significance of these two years?
The Midrash explains that this two year period was a set period of time decreed by God because Yosef had asked the servant of Pharaoh to intercede with the king and free him. Yosef showed a lack of belief in God’s will to redeem him by asking the servant for assistance, and therefore remained in prison for two more years until the dream catapulted him out.
Now, this answer should be very bothersome! Yosef showed lack of trust in God, because he asked for human assistance?! How are we to draw a lesson for our own lives? Should we not use worldly measures to help us achieve? Are we to only rely on divine interference; on miracles?
The Midrash then brings another explanation: God kept Yosef in prison these two years so that Yosef would be redeemed by a dream. The king’s dream.
Explanation: Yosef, the man of dreams… perhaps he had lost his dream. Perhaps he was desperate….He asks the servant for help. Nothing comes of it. Yosef’s desperation was generated by his lack of belief in himself. Yosef lost touch with his innate value, his mission in the world.
Yosef fell asleep. For two years he slept. God woke him up…with a dream. The dream of the King of Egypt. Meaning that Yosef needed Pharaoh to dream in order for Yosef to dream himself, and be freed.
We are dreamers. We dream of the destiny of our elevated, lofty, holy souls. We dream of making a difference, and changing the world. We dream of all we are capable of.
Then we fall asleep. Something happened, something frightening, sad, we feel alone. We hide from our dreams, and we fall asleep. When we are asleep we want to escape the loneliness, but nothing works, because we have no dreams. We cannot reenter the light until we wake up. Even were someone to wake us up, we need to still wake ourselves up.
What can wake us up?
A dream. A story. When we hear a story that contains our own story we can wake ourselves up. Hearing the story of our soul’s imprisonment, and the struggles and longing for freedom and greatness can inspire us, and wake us up.
Seeing someone else asleep to their dream; to their greatness is a tragic experience, and sadly many, many parents, teachers, and friends go through this.
Chanukah is the story of a miracle that was small, we did not gain sovereignty over our land, we did not merit the miracles of the first temple, we were not accomplishing anything significant, but….it woke us up. The dream of the Maccabees has inspired us in our own dreams for the past two thousand years. It gives us a story of light shining through darkness that helps us tell the story of our own souls in our own struggles.
This Chanuka be open to being awoken. Be open to dream. Your potential is limitless.
Rabbi Dovid Baars