By Ezra N. Rich
As we find ourselves preparing for Shabbat Hanukkah amidst the glow, smells and smiles of our Festival of Light, one’s mind may return to memories of holidays in years past and wondering when a post-COVID Hanukkah will appear.
Dream and Deliver
In this week’s parshah (Torah portion) of Miketz, Yosef (Joseph) goes from being a forgotten prisoner to becoming the prime minister of Egypt. In Lessons in Leadership, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, ZT”L, notes that Yosef is a rare individual who possesses a suite of three gifts: the ability to dream dreams, to interpret dreams, and to implement dreams.
Reflecting on his adolescent dream of his brother’s sheaves bowing to his sheaf, and the sun, moon, and 11 stars bowing to him, one could have wondered if this was a hint at future greatness or merely the inflated ego of a spoiled son. Here we see Yosef assessing Pharaoh’s two dreams: “The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is because the matter has been firmly decided by God and God will do it soon” (Genesis 41:32). There was real talent in dreaming dreams on Yosef’s part.
Secondly, as popularized by Sigmund Freud, Yosef could interpret other people’s dreams, as we saw earlier with his ability to accurately interpret the dreams of the butler and the baker.
Lastly, Yosef didn’t merely dream and interpret them, he came up with an action plan. In this case, he developed a strategy for Egypt to appoint commissioners to collect a portion of the harvest during the seven years of abundance so there would be reserve for the seven years of famine.
Rabbi Sacks notes, “When people come to me for advice about leadership, I tell them to give themselves the time and space and imagination to dream. In dreams we discover our passion, and following our passion is the best way to live a rewarding life… There are people who spend months planning a [vacation] but not even a day planning a life. They let themselves be carried by the winds of chance and circumstance. Whenever it says in the Torah ‘Vayehi’ [And it came to pass], it’s a prelude to tragedy (BT Megilla 10B)… A ‘Yehi’ (“Let there be”) life is one in which we make things happen, and it’s our dreams that give us direction.”
If One Wills It
Rabbi Sacks then cites an observation he heard from Elie Wiesel, Z”L, that there was a time when Freud and Theodor Herzl, the founder of political Zionism, lived in the same district of Vienna. Wiesel speculates that had they met, Freud would have psychoanalyzed Herzl’s vision for a Jewish homeland and would have “cured” him of his dreams. Fortunately for the Jewish people, that didn’t happen. As we marked the anniversary of the U.N. Partition Plan of 29 November 1947 earlier this week, the reverberations of Herzl’s dreams continue to play out.
As we enjoy the light of Hanukkah and Shabbat, let us dream of an even brighter Jewish Buffalo, emerging from COVID with renewed commitment to our sacred values, our robust heritage, and our bright future. Shabbat Shalom and Chag Urim Sameach!
Ezra N. Rich, marketing communications manager at Uniland Development Company, will be receiving the Ann S. & Dr. Meyer H. Riwchun Emerging Leadership Award from the Buffalo Jewish Federation at its joint annual meeting and celebration on Monday evening, Dec. 6, with the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropy. The event will be live-streamed, please register HERE to receive the watch link. Ezra proudly serves on the boards of the Buffalo Jewish Federation, Temple Beth Tzedek, and the Hebrew Benevolent Loan Association of Western New York.