This Shabbat, as we read Parshat Vayeshev, we’ll hear words of Torah from someone else. In the meantime, I’m happy to give you food for thought for your Shabbat dinner conversation.
Yosef, whose story will dominate the remaining four portions of the book of Bereshit, is known for his God-given talents in dream interpretation. It’s one thing to know what future event a dream foretells; it’s another to experience the reality of a dream come true. How long must one wait to see one’s dreams come to fruition?
Rabbi Levi read the events of the Torah and determined that it takes 22 years for dreams to become reality. How does he deduce that number? Well, Yosef was 17 when he had his dreams about the family dynamic–sun, moon and starts bowing down to him, sheaves of wheat showing deference to him. But the next 13 years weren’t so kind to him. Thrown in a pit by his brothers, sold into slavery, going from success in his master’s house to being framed by his master’s wife, landing in jail, and languishing forgotten in the pit, and time passes. Next week, we’ll learn that when Yosef’s abilities to solve the puzzles of dreams is finally remembered, he is already 30. The seven years of plenty that he predicted after hearing Pharaoh’s dream make him 37, and it is in the second year of the famine that the brothers return to Egypt, setting the scene for their subservience to him–he’s 39, having waited 22 long year to see his dream come true.
Rabbi Levi seems to be telling us more than mere Biblical chronology. There’s a deep message about the need for patience and perseverance when hoping to see our greatest hopes materialize into reality. Some of our “dreams,” our most valuable investments, our hopes for the future, test our patience and faith. Yosef had to wait 22 years–leaving him more than twice as old as he had been when he dreamed of the future. Some of us wait a lifetime, and longer.
There’s not much Yosef could do to speed things along in his story, and he knows it, crediting everything to God. When our dreams seem to take forever to come true, when we’re left with nothing but waiting, what do we do? What do we dream for, how long do we wait, and what do you hope will come true 22 years from now?
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David Wise