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Dreams

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Joseph—the Master of Time

The story of Joseph’s incarceration ends with his successful interpretation of the dreams of the Pharaoh’s chief butler and the chief baker.  He ingeniously interpreted ordinary objects (tendrils of grapes and baskets of bread) as symbols of the units of time. Even greater insight was Joseph’s understanding that the engagement in time manifested in the chief butler’s personally squeezing the grapes into the cup and placing the cup in Pharaoh’s hand symbolized life for the chief butler. And, conversely, the passivity of the chief baker, who dreamt of baskets of bread sitting on his head, with birds eating from the baskets, symbolized the opposite of life. Girolamo Brusaferro (Venice C. 1684 - C. 1760) Joseph Interpreting the Dreams In the Torah portion Miketz, this story is followed by Joseph’s encounter with Pharaoh when he [...]

One-to-Many and Many-to-One

And he arrived upon the place and lodged there all night, because the sun was set; and he took from the stones of the place, and put them under his head, and lay down in that place to sleep. — Gen.28:11 And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put under his head, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. — Gen.28:18 Rashi notes that, before Jacob lies down to sleep, the verse speaks of the plurality of stones: “he took from the stones of that place, and put them under his head.” When Jacob wakes up, the verse suddenly switches from plural to singular mentioning only one stone: “and took the stone that he had put under [...]

Secrets of the Talking Ass

And God opened the mouth of the ass, and she said to Bilam: "What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?" And Bilam said to the ass: "Because you have mocked me; I would there were a sword in my hand, for now I would kill you." And the ass said to Bilam: "Am not I your ass, upon which you have ridden all your life to this day? Was I ever wont to do so to you?" And he said, "No." Num. 22:28-30 Despite the simple dialogue between Balaam (Bilam) and his ass in the Torah portion of Balak, this ass was no ordinary ass. This ass saw an angel where a prophet as great as her owner, Balaam, did not. It stands to reason that [...]

Splitting the Sea

Do you like riddles?  Here is a riddle – what do these two figures represent in the context of Exodus?   No Idea?  How about a hint? Still no idea? Okay, here is the answer: Yes, the first figure represents two doorposts and the lintel marked with the blood of Passover sacrifice, as it says: וְלָקְחוּ, מִן-הַדָּם, וְנָתְנוּ עַל-שְׁתֵּי הַמְּזוּזֹת, וְעַל-הַמַּשְׁקוֹף--עַל, הַבָּתִּים, אֲשֶׁר-יֹאכְלוּ אֹתוֹ, בָּהֶם  And they shall take of the blood, and put it on the two side-posts and on the lintel, upon the houses wherein they shall eat it.  (Ex. 12:7) The second picture is of the splitting of the sea, as it says: וַיָּבֹאוּ בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּתוֹךְ הַיָּם, בַּיַּבָּשָׁה; וְהַמַּיִם לָהֶם חוֹמָה, מִימִינָם וּמִשְּׂמֹאלָם And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground; and the [...]

It’s the time, stupid!

There is a continuous thread about the mastery of time that weaves through the last chapters of the book of Bereshit (Genesis) and continues through the beginning of the book of Shemot (Exodus). The story of Joseph’s incarceration ends with his successful interpretation of the dreams of the Pharaoh’s chief butler and the chief baker.  His genius was not only in interpreting ordinary objects (tendrils of grapes and baskets of bread) as symbols of the units of time but in understanding that the engagement in time (manifested in the chief butler’s personally squeezing the grapes into the cup and placing the cup in Pharaoh’s hand) symbolized life for the chief butler and the passivity of the chief baker (who dreamt of baskets of bread sitting on his head, with birds eating from the baskets) [...]

Interpreting Dreams

In the Torah portion Vayeishev (Gen. 37:1–40:23), we read about Joseph (Yosef) interpreting dreams of the Pharaoh’s chief butler and the chief baker: And the chief butler told his dream to Joseph, and said to him: “In my dream, behold, a vine was before me; and in the vine were three tendrils...” And Joseph said unto him: “This is the interpretation of it: the three tendrils are three days.”  (Gen. 40:9-12) Joseph interpreting dreams, Benjamin Cuyp (1630-1652) How did Joseph know that three tendrils are three days?  The story repeats itself with the chief baker: When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was good, he said unto Joseph: “I also saw in my dream, and, behold, three baskets of white bread were on my head…” “This is the interpretation thereof: the three baskets are three [...]