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Were Yosef's Dreams a Prophecy?

By: Esti Sacher

Our parsha starts off with Yosef's dreams of achieving greatness, and in fact Yosef does become the second in command in all of Egypt as we will see in the weeks to come. These dreams seem like a prophecy that came true, and yet they are different from the other dreams we see throughout the story of Yosef.

The minister's dreams and Paroh's dreams are interpreted in great detail by Yosef. During these interpretations Hashem's name is mentioned and it is clearly said that they are a sign from Hashem. In addition the psukim take the time to show us just how the dreams became true.

But Yosef's dreams at the beginning of the story are a bit more vague in their interpretation and detailed fulfillment. 

Still most mefarshim see these dreams as a prophecy. And so we ask:

Why the need for two dreams?
What are the differences between them?
Why were his family members upset by these dreams if they were a sign from Hashem?

Rav Elchanan Samet addresses these questions and suggests that a clear analysis of the dreams will help us understand this story better.

Yaakov and the brothers are angered at the thought of bowing down to Yosef. But the bowing mentioned in both dreams should not be understood as a physical bow but rather a symbol of dependence.

In the first dream the sheaves of corn bow down to Yosef- This dream focuses on financial and physical needs. The brothers will in fact be financially dependent on Yosef for food and livelihood in years to come. In the dream the word הנה  is mentioned three times and shows three stages in the story:

"והנה אנחנו מאלמים אלומים"  -at the beginning Yosef and all of his brothers work together as a family

"והנה קמה אלומתי נצבה" – at this point Yosef is separated from his brothers and rises to power

"והנה תסבינה אלמותיכם ותשתחוין לאלומתי"  - the story ends with the brothers turning to him for physical and financial help.

We see these three stages come true. Yosef and his brothers work in the fields. Yosef is then sold and after many hardships rises to power and wealth. And when the difficult days of famine arrive the brothers turn to Egypt and Yosef saves them and provides for them.

In the second dream we have the sun, moon and stars.

Am Israel has been compared to the stars earlier in Bereshit. In Brit bein habtarim, Hashem promises Avraham that his descendant will be like the stars in the sky:

 "הבט נא השמימה וספור הכוכבים אם תוכל לספור אותם ויאמר לו כה יהיה זרעך"

In this dream there is a sense of a unit. And the sun and moon and stars symbolize a more spiritual aspect of Yaakov's family.

When Yosef was sent down to Egypt he had two missions he was sent out to do for the future of Am Israel - the first mission being the gashmi, physical and financial survival of the family. And the second mission, the spiritual destiny of the nation as a united family. Yosef brings the family together again, gives them Eretz Goshen and makes sure to unite the family and set them apart from the other people of Egypt.

Perhaps if Yosef and his family would have understood the dreams in this way, they would not have fought and reached the sad situation of selling their brother in to slavery. And so the reason we do not see a clear interpretation and fulfillment of these dreams in the Torah is because Yosef and the brothers did not fully understand the prophecy at the beginning. The meaning of these dreams is unraveled slowly maturely throughout the story of Yosef.

Hashem's hashgacha made the events occur and things work out as they should for the greater good and the future of Am Israel.

Yosef rises to greatness, practically and emotionally. The young, talented Yosef might not have completely understood the dreams Hashem sent him, but later on after years of struggle and growth - he meets his brothers:
 "ויזכור יוסף את החלומות אשר חלם להם"  

Yosef remembers the dreams and now understands why all of these events occurred and what his role is in the story of his nation.

We can learn from this story how Hashem is watching over us and leads us to where we should be and our role is to try our best to fulfill our calling in life and to do our best for the future of our nation, both in the Gashmi and Ruchani aspect of our lives - making an effort in earthly matters and in spiritual matters to make the world a better place and do everything .לשם שמים

שבת שלום!


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