Dreaming dreams is good, being able to decipher them is an excellent trait, but greatness comes with the ability of doing something with the dream and not just leaving it just as an unturned stone in the field. Joseph is confronted with two of the pharaoh dreams. One dream, having two portions, appears to be a good one, “from the Nile there came up seven cows, sleek and fat; and they grazed in the marsh grass… behold, seven ears of grain came up on a single stalk, plump and good.” Each portion of the dreams also continues with less favorable outcomes, “seven other cows came up after them from the Nile, ugly and gaunt, and they stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile. The ugly and gaunt cows ate up the seven sleek and fat cows… behold, seven ears, thin and scorched by the east wind, sprouted up after them. The thin ears swallowed up the seven plump and full ears.”
Rabbi Rick Jacobs' at the URJ Biennial 2017
Joseph is rushed to the pharaoh to explain these dreams and quickly deciphers them. “Behold, seven years of great abundance are coming in all the land of Egypt; and after them seven years of famine will come, and all the abundance will be forgotten in the land of Egypt, and the famine will ravage the land. So the abundance will be unknown in the land because of that subsequent famine; for it will be very severe.” This is not enough for Joseph and he also suggests a practical solution to the problem faced by the pharaoh, suggesting how he may overcome this terrible fate. “Now let Pharaoh look for a man discerning and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh take action to appoint overseers in charge of the land, and let him exact a fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt in the seven years of abundance. Then let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming, and store up the grain for food in the cities under Pharaoh’s authority, and let them guard it. Let the food become as a reserve for the land for the seven years of famine which will occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land will not perish during the famine.” The dreams therefore receive a practical face, not only a drama of good or bad, and an unavoidable tragedy at the end, as best described by the ancient Greeks. Rather, Joseph suggests a way out, a way that overcomes the bad years, that is practical, actionable and doable. It is therefore that the scripture notes that “the proposal seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his servants.” A dream becomes action by providing a solution.
Just about a week and a half ago the Union of Reform Judaism (URJ), that organization of the many hundreds of Reform congregations throughout north America, held its 2017 Biennial. Some six thousand leaders and friends gathered in Boston to a series of discussions, debates, lectures, meetings and many other interesting events. Israel was a major topic in Rabbi Rick Jacobs’ speech. In it the president of the URJ referred to the centuries long dreaming and yearning of Jews for the return to the Land of Israel and at its center, Jerusalem. He emphasized our commitment to Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel. It took many generations and countless efforts to make this dream of the return to Zion a reality. Providing a practical solution to such return that made it to fruition begun only late in the 19th century. It is a long journey which still presents many challenges to al lof us but the dream became a reality. Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is an inseparable part of that, regardless of if some nations do not recognize this bond. Nevertheless it is important for us in the Reform Movement to be aware and support the national aspirations of another people who share today the land. It does not contradict the notion of Jerusalem being the internal capital of Israel but rather a call for all local and world leaders to find a peaceful solution to a bloody conflict that has cost the lives of many innocent people.
In her speech Daryl Messinger, chair of the URJ, asked us to state what the Reform Movement is for us. When I spoke to the participants of the International Humanitarian Award Dinner, recognizing Rabbit Meir Azari, of Beit Daniel in Tel Aviv, and Nani and Austin Beutel, pillars of support to IMPJ, I responded to Daryl’s request and said that for me the Reform Movement is a place where we can make dreams come true. We realized one dream in that dinner when The Debbie Friedman Suite was premiered in north America and received a standing ovation. Another dream that we started to work on at the biennial is the doubling of the financial support of the Movement in north America in the efforts made by the IMPJ in Israel. We have already fulfilled some of our dreams and vision but there is still much more to be done. We have just announced that we qualified to a tender by the Israel government to open homes for people with special needs so that they can become part of society-at-large. Dream by dream, solution by solution, implementation and application. In the book of Psalms, chapter 126, we read, “When the Lord brought back the captive ones of Zion, We were like those who dream.” The return to Zion is not just a motion towards Zion it is also a movement within Zion, a movement for improvement, a movement to better what it is today, making it a place where we can dream, plan, create, and succeed, together with so many partners of ours.
Shabbat Shalom and best wishes for a good month of Tevet.
Reuven Marko, 15 December 2017, 28 Kislev, 5778