Once Upon a Dream
November 12, 2021
By Zahava Fried

Like most preschoolers, my oldest daughter is obsessed with Disney movies. To my amusement, these well-loved movies have become the topics of her introspection. Sometimes her reflections are downright hilarious, such as the time that she told me that Cinderella’s shoes aren’t safe for school because “they’re made of glass and that could give us boo-boo’s.” Other times, her insights are remarkably pertinent.

The other day, she requested to watch Sleeping Beauty, and I acquiesced. As I was washing dishes, I heard the opening notes to the waltz of “Once Upon a Dream,” which is both mine and my daughter’s favorite song in the film. As I hummed along with Aurora and Prince Philip, my daughter exclaimed: “They became best friends so fast!” Her observation was dead-on: Aurora and Prince Philip fell in-love over the course of one song. I know this is Disney we are talking about, but even Cinderella and Prince Charming had a few hours together before the clock struck midnight! It makes sense to me that the only way Disney could justify this alarmingly quick courtship was to declare that the pair already knew each other “once upon a dream.”

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayeitzei, we read about three prophetic dreams. Our sages say that all dreams, including our own, are considered 1/60th of prophecy. According to the kabbalists, when we fall asleep our “animal bodies” remain on earth while our “spiritual bodies” roam spiritual planes. As we roam through these planes, aka dreaming, we are able to become privy to possible future events. Hence, prophecy!

Unfortunately, we don’t have the assurance that our dreams are sent directly from G-d. Yaakov Avinu’s ladder dream doesn’t seem so inscrutable when you consider that he had a direct line to G-d. Yaakov’s dreams were not 1/60th prophecy- they were prophecies. For Prince Philip and Aurora, knowing one another could’ve been foretold in a dream because it’s Disney. So, how can we interpret this idea of our dreams being 1/60th prophecy and apply it relevantly to our lives?

My question is: what is the remaining 59/60th? I believe that dreams, whether they’re dreams we have while sleeping or our own aspirations, can come true depending on the information we have combined with one’s own determination. This idea relates to another story in this week’s reading where we learn that Rachel is Yaakov’s dream girl (pun intended). In order for them to marry, he needs to demonstrate his dedication to their partnership through a total of fourteen years of manual labor. Yaakov’s work ethic shows me that if you want your dream partner, your dream job, your dream house, etc., then it is your obligation to put forth whatever work necessary to make it a reality- but let’s hope it won’t take fourteen years! Yes, dreams are 1/60th of prophecy, but in order for our dreams to become more than prophecy, it is up to us to decide the remaining fraction.

Zahava Fried is a Jewish educator, cantorial soloist, newfound Buffalo Bills fan, and self-proclaimed coffee enthusiast. She resides in Williamsville with her husband, two daughters, and a small zoo of animals.

Once Upon a Dream - Jewish thought of the week graphic