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Shabbat Parashat Vayigash 5779

Parashat Hashavua: One Dream at a Time?

Harav Yosef Carmel

We continue to discuss Yosef’s dream(s). We saw that Yosef’s attempt to appease his brothers by means of sharing his dream backfired. “His brothers said to him: ‘Will you be king over us, or will you rule over us?’ They continued to hate him because of his dreams and his words” (Bereishit 37:8).

Many deal with a seemingly small and technical problem with this pasuk, which is not easy to solve, as we see from the number of answers that are needed to try to solve it (when there is a clear answer, there do not need to be as many attempts). At this point, Yosef had shared only one dream, so why does the Torah refer to plural “dreams.”

The Da’at Zekeinim provides two answers: 1. The plural applies not only to the dream that was told but also to the one that would be told in the future. 2. Because he told it over multiple times, it is referred to in the plural. Both answers are difficult. What is the point of referring to a future dream, when it is brought explicitly one pasuk later? It also does not make sense for a dream to become plural just because it is repeated. This question also makes it difficult to accept the answer of the Seforno and Ohr Hachayim that it was referred to in the plural because it contained a lot of detail.

R. Chaim Paltiel and the Riva posit that, in the first stage, there had indeed been a second dream that the Torah did not write – ten candles surrounded one candle and tried to extinguish it, but they could not. (Indeed this dream is related in the gemara, Megilla 16b.) The Riva cites a commentator who claimed that the reason that this dream was not written is because it did not come to fruition. Thus, when the brothers reacted, they reacted to both of the dreams that they had already heard, and it is not referring to the one that had not yet been told.

The Malbim and the Netziv reason that the plural goes on the dream itself plus the idea, which they assumed, that if he had a dream like that, he must have such thoughts during the daytime. This is also difficult, as since when are thoughts considered a dream in the language of Tanach?

We will therefore suggest an additional explanation. Yosef had the dream of the brothers and the sheaves twice. This is in line with that which Yosef would tell Paroh years later, that the reason that he had a dream twice is as Hashem’s way of showing that this is a prophetic dream that will come to fruition promptly. That is why the brothers hated him for the two dreams, meaning the repeated dream.

May Yosef’s dreams be fulfilled and the principles of justice and belief be learned from the sons of Yaakov.    

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