Thursday, December 19, 2019




          As World War II raged in Europe, Asia, and Africa, the Ponovezher Rav, Rabbi Yosef Kahaneman zt’l, stood atop a barren hill in B’nei Brak and announced his plans to construct a large Yeshiva, which would eventually be surrounded by a bustling Torah community. Those who heard his grandiose ideas brushed him off and said, "Rabbi, you’re dreaming!" The Ponovezher Rav replied, "I may be dreaming but I am not sleeping!"
          In Chumash Bereishis, there is a recurring theme of dreams. In parshas Lech Lecha, G-d revealed Himself to Avrohom Avinu in a dream, showing him visions of the future exile and redemption of his descendants. In parshas Vayetzei, as Yaakov was traveling to the home of his deceitful uncle Lavan, he envisioned a ladder with angels ascending and descending its rungs. In parshas Miketz the Torah describes at length the dreams of Pharaoh, which foretold the future of Egypt.
Included, were the dreams of Yosef in parshas Vayeshev that he shared with his brothers and his father. The brothers saw Yosef’s dreams as a threat, and they felt subtle jealousy and enmity. Those deep-rooted feelings were the catalyst of his lonely and tragic descent to Egypt.
Not realizing the severity of the situation, Yaakov dispatched Yosef to seek the welfare of his brothers and to report back to him. When the brothers saw Yosef approaching in the distance they convened and plotted, “So now, come and let us kill him, and let us throw him into one of the pits; and we will say, ‘A wild beast devoured him’. And we shall see what will become of his dreams.”[2]
Rashi notes that it was not the brothers who uttered the words ‘and we shall see what will become of his dreams’. Rather it was G-d Himself, as it were. It was as if He responded, "You think you will destroy his dreams by ridding yourselves of him, ultimately, you will bring about their fulfillment.”
The Jewish people have long survived because of a dream. To remain a Torah-Jew in a world that stands in stark contrast to its values and morals is a formidable challenge. Yet, throughout the generations, we have persevered because we have maintained those dreams. Our exile has included many utterances by our foes – verbal or not - of, "So now, come and let us kill them." We have endured because G-d has always countered their call by stating, "And we shall see what will become of his dreams. You will see that your schemes and machinations will only preserve the people you seek to eradicate.”
  When the Satmar Rebbe zt’l instructed his Chassidim in America to retain their Chassidic garb in the spiritual wilderness of America, he was dreaming. When Rabbi Aharon Kotler zt’l arrived in Lakewood N.J. and founded a yeshiva for a few young men to devote their days to uninterrupted Torah study, he was dreaming. When the Lubavitcher Rebbe zt’l sent out emissaries to all corners of the earth to disseminate Torah, he was dreaming.
They were all dreaming, but they were not sleeping.
We continue to thrive today because of the dreams and persistence of our forbearers. The brothers understood that the dreams of Yosef were not merely superficial visions that would fade. They realized that Yosef’s dreams were tantamount to prophecy and therefore they felt threatened by them.

The Kotzker Rebbe points out that when the Torah relates the two dreams of Pharaoh[3], it says that Pharaoh awoke after the first dream[4], and then he went back to sleep and had a second dream. When the Torah relates the dream of Yaakov on Mount Moriah[5] however, it says that Yaakov awoke and declared that he had not realized the holiness of his surroundings.
The Rebbe explained that the Torah subtly alludes to the underlying difference between a great individual and a failure. A great person “wakes up” after having a dream he analyzes it, seeks out its meaning and devotes himself to its fulfilment. One who is a failure on the other hand, dreams throughout his life but never seeks to bring his dreams to fruition. He procrastinates by “going back to sleep”, allowing his dreams to wither away.
The Torah repeats the dreams in chumash Bereishis to demonstrate that our dreams are the foundation of success. If one wants to accomplish anything in life, he must first have a dream, from which he can forge a path toward its fruition.

 The She’iltos[6] quotes a halachic opinion that one should light the Chanukah candles on the left side of the doorway. This way he will be surrounded by mitzvos; the mezuzah hangs on the doorpost on his right side, the Chanukah candles shine on his left side, and he stands in the middle donned in his tzitzis.
What is the connection between these three unique mitzvos?
 These three mitzvos represent the three tools a Jew must possess in order to remain dedicated to Torah: The mitzvah of tzitzis represents the concept of always keeping one’s goals and aspirations in focus. In regard to the mitzvah of tzitzis the pasuk states, "It shall constitute tzitzis for you, that you may see and remember all the commandments of Hashem and perform them; and not stray after your heart and after your eyes after which you stray."[7] The mitzvah of mezuzah represents the idea that one must always be steadfast and unyielding to his convictions and dreams. The blessing recited when one affixes a mezuzah on his door is, "Likvoah mezuzah- To set up a mezuzah." The mezuzah remains perched on the door and does not budge, affording spiritual protection for the home.
 Finally, the mitzvah of lighting the Chanukah candles represents the concept of always seeking to improve and rise to greater heights. No other mitzvah, Biblical or Rabbinic, possesses such varying degrees in regard to its fulfillment as the mitzvah of lighting the Chanukah candles. The actual obligation is merely to light one candle each night for the entire household.[8] Our custom that every member of the house lights the Menorah, adding another light corresponding to the night of Chanukah, is the fulfillment of “hiddur mitzvah- beautifying the mitzvah”. This represents the attitude a Jew strives for – not to be satisfied with merely fulfilling his obligations to the letter of the law. Rather, he seeks to enhance each mitzvah, performing them with joy and alacrity.
In our time we are still challenged by enemies, internal and external, who seek to eradicate that dream and snuff out our inner flame. We continue to fulfill the dream of our national mission, with the knowledge that our flame will never be extinguished. The miracle of the candles burning despite the odds then, continues and will continue until the end of time.

“So now, come and let us kill them”
"We shall see what will become of his dreams".

Rabbi Dani Staum LMSW
Rebbe, Heichal HaTorah, Teaneck, NJ
Principal, Ohr Naftali, New Windsor NY

[1] This essay was taken from the book “Stam Torah: Perspectives and Reflections on Chanukah and Purim” which I was privileged to publish a few years ago.
[2] Bereishis 37:20
[3] Parshas Miketz
[4] Bereishis 41:5
[5] parshas Vayeitzei
[6] authored by Rav Hai Gaon
[7] Bamidbar 15:39
[8] See Shabbos 21b


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