I Had a Dream!

Question

Dear Rabbi, I had a dream. It wasn’t a very good one. Does it mean anything according to Judaism?

2 months

Answers

  1. It depends.

    During the day, your body makes a lot of noise. Mundane occurrences and stimuli fill all your senses. Although you have an ‘inner voice,’ you can’t always hear it.

    When you sleep, your body quiets and your mind relaxes. Your soul then ‘rises above’ daytime entanglements. In such a state you can sometimes receive actual inklings of the future. “In a dream – in a vision of the night… God opens the ears of man” (Job 33:15).

    But a bad dream can result just as easily from an extra piece of pizza or some leftover chicken too close to bedtime or a monster movie from ten years ago. So, it’s difficult to know what’s an actual premonition, what’s a reverie re-run, and what’s just leftover chicken.

    Many dreams are also influenced by what one thinks about during the day. If you are able to see a connection to your thoughts during the day, then you can basically ignore the dream as a “false dream.”

    And even “true dreams” contain at least one false element. This we see from Joseph’s dream of the sun, moon and eleven stars bowing to him. Although this dream was a true portent of Joseph’s future greatness, nonetheless it did contain one untrue element – the moon. Jacob said to Joseph, “Will I, your mother and all your brothers come and bow down to you?” As the commentators point out, since Joseph’s mother – represented by the moon – had already died, it was impossible for this element of the dream to ever materialize.

    If despite this you are still worried about a bad dream, one option is to fast the next day (ta’anit chalom). This particular option is not common today, since most people become depressed and weak when they fast, and therefore the negative effects may be greater than the good.

    The most prevalent practice is to do what is known as ‘making the dream better’ – ‘hatavat chalom.’ The Talmud states that Rabbi Pedat said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan, “One who saw a dream and is depressed about it should ‘make it better’ in front of three people – providing they love him.” That is, one should tell a close friend that he is distraught by a bad dream and ask him together with two other friends to state (with conviction) “You have seen a good dream” – three times. Some authorities record the custom of telling the dream to the local rabbi, and ask him for a positive interpretation of the dream.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team