Yosef and the Dreams of Zion

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Our parsha revolves around dreams. It opens with a young Yosef dreaming about things that were beyond the family’s immediate experience – of a grain field for a family of shepherds and of the celestial beings. These dreams at first get Yosef in trouble, as his brothers react to them negatively and eventually sell him into slavery.

At this point, Yosef should give up on his dreams. After all, there was a great and ever-growing distance between his life experience as a Hebrew prisoner and his dreams of having other bow to him. Instead, Yosef never gave up on his dreams. He possessed a form of quiet courage and patience, biding his time and trusting these prophetic dreams. One might even say that these dreams sustained Yosef, keeping his hope and inner-self alive despite his life of hardships. Eventually, this approach reaped its own benefit, and, with God’s help, Yosef greeted his family as the viceroy of Egypt.

The midrash notes that there is a deep connection between Yosef and Zion: “everything that occurred to Yosef occurred to Zion.” Both were beloved but then hated and feared. Both faced downfalls and were forced into subservience to foreign forces. Yet, eventually, both triumphed. In fact, the numerical value of the letters of Yosef and Zion are both 156, underscoring the affinity between them. 

The matter of dreams is no exception. So many Jews for so many generations dreamt about the return to Zion. Similar to Yosef, these Jews were hated and berated by others for daring to dream of a different future. And at many points in Jewish history this dream seemed well beyond anyone’s wildest imaginations.

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