From The Other Side Of The Bench
By David J. Seidemann, Esq.
When is a stalk of wheat an ox? Well, that all depends on who is dreaming about it. Now before you think I have gone over the mental cliff (I went over the fiscal cliff years ago), allow me to explain.
One of my favorite stories and, without exception, the most emotion-packed episode in Genesis, is the reunification of Joseph, the viceroy of Egypt, with his brothers—the very brothers who threw him into a pit and then pulled him out only to sell him into slavery. Imagine their shame and fear as they stood before a man who could have imprisoned them or executed them for their brazen act years earlier. They were mere pawns and Joseph could have positioned them in any manner he desired.
He tells them not to fear retribution, for while they might have had evil intent, G‑d orchestrated the entire affair for a purpose relating to a message about sustenance. Why didn’t Joseph simply say to his brothers, “While you might have had malice in mind, G‑d had a master plan”? Why was it necessary for Joseph to qualify his remarks and add the specifics of G‑d’s plan, i.e., that the purpose of the entire sordid affair was so that one day there would be a famine, Joseph would figure it all out by interpreting a dream of Pharaoh, Joseph would become the viceroy in charge of dispensing the food rations, and the brothers would end up coming to him for food?
There are dreamers and master dreamers; dream interpreters and master dream interpreters. Dreamers dream in black and white. Master dreamers dream in color. Dreamers dream while they are asleep. Master dreamers dream even while they are awake. Dreamers dream about the events of today. Master dreamers dream about tomorrow. Dream interpreters see symbolism. Master dream interpreters see symbols as symbols of something else within the dream.
Joseph had a dream in which stalks of wheat appeared. His brothers were dream interpreters and, consistent with the Talmudic passage in Berachos, interpreted the stalk of wheat as a symbol of peace. That passage states that “he who sees the vision of wheat in a dream will experience peace.” They were frightened as they stood before Joseph in Egypt because they interpreted his dream as meaning that Joseph was destined to experience only peace. They concluded, therefore, that since they caused Joseph to experience the antithesis of peace, they were now about to receive due retribution. But they were wrong; the stalk of wheat was not peace. They were wrong because they were dream interpreters and not master dream interpreters like their brother Joseph was.
Joseph, as the master dream interpreter, knew that the symbol of the wheat was not a symbol in and of itself, but a symbol of something else, which then had to be interpreted. Joseph knew the following passage of the Talmud, which states that “he who sees an ox in a dream will experience wealth.” Joseph knew from the blessing of his father that his tribe was compared to the ox and that the dream was about the world economy and not about his personal peace. He knew this because he was the master dream interpreter. He knew this because the Jew in exile, which is what he was envisioning, might experience financial security, but would not experience peace. It would not make sense for him to dream of the Jew in exile as one who lives in peace and security, and so he rejected the superficial interpretation of his brothers and instead opted for the symbolism within the symbolism. They saw wheat, while the real dream was about an ox.
Which begs the question—if the message of Joseph’s dream was one of wealth despite a lack of peace and security, why beat around the bush, or stalk in this case? Why didn’t Joseph just dream about an ox and it would have been clear to all the brothers, including Joseph, what the message of the dream was?
The answer, my friends, is the second message of the exile. Oh, there will come a time when visions are clear and what we see is what exists. There will come a time when a stalk of wheat is a stalk of wheat. But for now, we can’t even trust that what we see is what we think we are seeing. For now, symbols are merely symbols of something else, something deeper, and we need a master dream interpreter to open our eyes for us, to tell us what we are seeing, to light the way, to lead the way.
There will come a time when the Jew will have peace and perhaps wealth as well, with peace being much more important than wealth. The exile will end not when we are wealthy but when we are at peace—at peace with ourselves, at peace with our families, at peace with our neighbors, at peace with the nations of the world.
Joseph knew that that time had not yet arrived, and that while the Jews would exit from Egypt laden with gold, there would tragically be a golden calf to follow.
He knew there would be Temples followed by destruction, a Holocaust followed by a Jewish state, only to be followed by one war and then another and then another. The time for ultimate peace for Joseph and his brothers had not yet been decreed.
And so we wait, not as master dreamers but as mere dreamers with visions of peace but a few sleep cycles away. v
David Seidemann is a partner with the law firm of Seidemann and Mermelstein and serves as a professor of business law at Touro College. He can be reached at 718-692-1013 or email@example.com.