To dream in America is to truly live. Not so much for our biblical ancestors. For them dreams were not aspirations, but secret communique with God, that may not be received well by those of us here on earth. As Joseph learns in this week’s Torah portion, Vayeshev, his dreams are perceived threats directed at his family’s power structure.
Joseph’s brothers and father understood that dreams of sheaves and stars bowing down were future events they could do little to dispel. In this way, like in Homer’s Odyssey, the real battle is between free choice and fate, with fate winning resoundingly.
Today it’s not theologians that debate this, but scientists and often they come up on the side of our biblical ancestors. As Robert Sapolsky, a neuroscientist at Stanford, argues, “I don’t think there is room for the slightest bit of free will out there.” All decisions are predetermined at a cellular level. And while this may take away some of humanity’s cosmic guilt, it defies everything we have ever taught to believe in. So, we simply choose not to. Life is so much more interesting when we believe in dreams.