The instability of dreams

There are certain events in our lives that seem to have a single meaning that appears clear to us.  There are other moments that engender a sense of confusion and wonder about the world around us.  The rabbis understood that the moment of the dream could also leave us with a feeling of great clarity or possibly ultimate confusion.

The same can be said about all the texts of our lives. We occasionally encounter a text that is clear and unequivocal.  Most texts (both within Jewish life and without) require some amount of interpretation.  And then there are those texts that seem to lack meaning without an interpreter.  In the world of post-modernity everything is folded into the third category.  The maharsha (below) on dreams has important application to the ways that we all all rabbinic, and indeed Torah, texts.

Maharsha, Chiddushei Aggadot, Berachot 55b

Rabbi Samuel Eidels (1555–1631)

And according to the reasoning of our topic, there are three types of dreams:

  1. The first that goes entirely according to the interpretation; without the interpretation it is neither good nor bad.  And this is the type that Rav Hisda was speaking of when he said, “A dream uninterrupted is like a letter unread.”  This is also the type that Rebbi Bena’a was referring to when he mentioned the twenty four dream interpreters of Jerusalem.  And all the dreams of Bar Hedaya are of the same type.  These are all meaningless without the interpretation.
  2. And the second type is a dream that has an interpretation close to the truth and it will come to fruition without an interpreter.  However, it can change from bad to good and good to bad based on the interpreter.  Like in the case of, “one who sees a well [should recite this verse…] The dreams’ of Pharo’s two servants are like this…
  3. And the third type is a dream that has a single true interpretation and can not be otherwise.  Like the dreams of Joseph.  And these come from angels…
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