To Sleep, Perchance to Dream
This week’s Torah portion describes Joseph’s meteoric rise to power as second in command to Pharaoh in Egypt after he successfully interprets Pharaoh’s dreams. Even before Joseph reaches this lofty and powerful position, he succeeds in having the full confidence of his master, Potiphar when he is sold into slavery by his brothers. After being framed by Potiphar’s wife and sent to jail, he wins the Most Popular Inmate award and the warden has him running the prison.
It seems that wherever Joseph finds himself, no matter how adversarial the circumstance, he is able to ingratiate himself to those in charge and rise to great heights of success. As a slave, as a prisoner and finally as a government official, Joseph rises to the top. What is the key to his success and how is he able to pull this off? Listen to Joseph and it becomes clear:
- Upon seeing his fellow inmates troubled about the meaning of their dreams he tells them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me them if you please.”
- When Joseph meets Pharaoh who has heard of his ability to interpret dreams and comments about Joseph’s reputation, Joseph says, “It is not me, but God who will respond regarding Pharaoh’s welfare.”
- When Joseph names his children, he names the first Menashe “because God has made me forget my hardship…” and the second Ephraim because, “God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”
Time and again Joseph acknowledges that whatever talents he may have, and whatever successes he may achieve are from God. He views his life as if he personally has accomplished nothing and that everything is a gift from Above.
Joseph’s overwhelming gratitude to God lies in his trait of humility. Humility does not mean that a person sees him or herself as a nothing but actually it’s the exact opposite. He understands that his talents are God-given, not self-made and (as Rabbi Weinberg used to say,) “takes pleasure rather than pride” in them.
This attitude allows those talents to be maximized to their greatest potential because he realizes that his gifts are from a Higher Power. When you appreciate that the gifts you have are from God Himself, then you are more likely to use them to a greater degree than if you think they came from “little ol’ me”. It is similar to the idea that if the Queen of England gave you a present, you would cherish and guard it much more than if you purchased it at Macy’s. The origin of something greatly influences how we regard and utilize that thing.
To take it a step further, the humble person knows that not only what he has is a gift from God, but that the same holds true for anyone and everyone else. God didn’t just make him special but everybody as well. He sees the tzelem Elokim, the Godliness in everyone and knows that there are – that there must be – latent greatness and potential in every person. As such, he is attuned to the strengths, talents, dreams and fears of another.
A truly humble man or woman understands that every other person is also a reflection of God’s infinite greatness, and treats everyone with the royal dignity that they each deserve. And what happens next is the magic that is created when others pick up and intuit the care, warmth and love that humble people radiate. This is why Joseph was able to become successful with everyone he met, from the lowly prisoner to the highest Pharaoh. Because to Joseph there was no such thing as lowly or higher – they were all the same, created in God’s image and infused with infinite worth.
Humility, contrary to popular belief, does not make someone disappear in a crowd but stand out in a crowd. Humility always leads to grace, charm, likeability, charisma and leadership.
At the other end of the spectrum are the arrogant who make themselves and only themselves the focus. They leave no room for anyone else since they hog all the space around them. Their self-centeredness literally and physically repulses others as their stench of self permeates the air of any place they occupy. With the arrogant there is no warmth or care for another, only a cold and deathly indifference; frozen and aborted relationships that were never given a chance at life.
Joseph’s success was a direct function of his humility and appreciation that everything he had, any situation he may have found himself in, was all a gift from God and that the exact same thing holds true for everyone else. This awareness gave him the uncanny ability to focus on others so deeply that he could see and sense their innermost fears, desires and ambitions that lie dormant in the subconscious and emerge only in dreams.
It is the Josephs of the world who give us a taste of our potential – of who we really could become; thoughts that often get buried so deep that we forget we even had them. At least until a Joseph comes along to unlock them and remind us of our true dreams in life.
Now here I go again
I see the crystal visions
I keep my visions to myself
It’s only me who wants to wrap around your dreams and
Have you any dreams you’d like to sell