reflection by Carrie Watkins
art by @lukas_dream_
The central narrative in this week’s parasha shifts from Ya’akov, to his favorite son, Yosef. Yosef, seventeen years old, had two dreams, both of which he told his brothers, and both of which made them resent him even more than they had before. Actually, the language is stronger than resentment; The Torah says his brothers hated him. In the first dream, his brothers’ sheaves of wheat bow down to Yosef’s. In the second, the sun, moon, and eleven stars bow down to him. His brothers interpreted these dreams as threats, spitting back, “do you mean to reign over us?!” (37:8). Despite the negative feedback, Yosef shares his dreams.
My friend Rachel likes to ask people what they think of Yosef in that story. Do you see him as the arrogant, snot-nosed, favorite child who needs to learn to grow up? Or is he more innocent? His brothers were the ones who interpreted them; perhaps he just wanted to connect with them. The Torah leaves a lot of space for our interpretation, and we can learn about ourselves by noticing how our mind fills in the rest of the story.
Whatever you think of Yosef, his brothers’ interpretations of his dreams actually did come true. (Spoiler Alert: Yosef becomes second in command in Egypt, and his brothers, not realizing it’s him, bow down to him!)
I got to thinking this week about what stops me from sharing my own dreams, my aspirations, my visions. I’m not nearly as comfortable sharing as Yosef. I fear the judgement of others. I worry about opening up space for disappointment. Wanting something can be painful. Sharing that wanting can be vulnerable.
I’m choosing this week to interpret the parsha as inviting me to dream bigger, and to share those dreams, at the very least with myself. If Yosef hadn’t shared his dreams, everything that followed would not have happened, including saving his entire family and all of Egypt from a monstrous plague. For big dreams to happen, we have to believe in them. We have to believe in ourselves.
The poet Mary Oliver says it well: ”You wouldn’t believe what once or twice I have seen. I’ll just tell you this. Only if there are angels in your head will you ever, possibly, see one.”
Shabbat Shalom and Happy Hannukah!