BY RABBI RONALD BLUMING / AJT //
This week’s Torah reading, Vayetze, describes a turning point in the life of our patriarch, Jacob. As Jacob begins his journey to Haran, he is most fearful about things in his past, present and future.
He has regrets about the incident with his brother, Esau, during which Jacob stole Esau’s birthright. Jacob feels both insecure and afraid to travel from home for the first time. When will he see his family again? Nevertheless, he does depart on this trip to Haran.
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On his first night alone in the wilderness, Jacob dreams his famous dream. As described in Gen. 28:13, “He dreamt and behold! A ladder was set earthward and its top reached heavenward; and behold – angels of G-d ascending and descending on it.”
Amidst all of Jacob’s fears at the time he fell asleep, he awakens the next morning more confident. He is stronger now, assured that G-d stands with him. The dream with the ladder and angels convinces him of this.
“Surely G-d is in this place,” Jacob says upon awakening. He then takes the stone that he had put under his head as a pillow and makes it into an altar. (Gen. 28:16, 18).
This Torah portion suggests to us the significance of our own dreams. They can speak to us, helping us to understand and analyze our hopes and goals in life. Our dreams can even empower us.
As far back as the 1890s, Sigmund Freud published strong, persuasive information about dreams as a result of his study of the human mind. He discovered that dreams come from people’s own wishes for themselves.
He guided his patients to understand the symbolism in their dreams, which helped them grasp their hidden feelings. Freud’s research is still used today by psychologists and psychiatrists in evaluating their patients’ dreams.
Vayetze invites us to be like Jacob and look seriously at our “sleep dreams.” Can we empower ourselves by understanding our dreams, just as Jacob did? The answer is yes! We can and must use the strong messages that come to us while we sleep.
Whether our challenge might be an intense personal journey or relationship issues within our family, our sleep dreams can give us the ability to meet it head-on.
About the writer
Rabbi Ronald Bluming is the spiritual leader of Congregation Tikvah L’Shalom in Stone Mountain, Ga. and a member of the Atlanta Rabbinical Association.