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 successfully interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams. Well before Joseph reaches this lofty position, he succeeds in having the full confidence of his previous boss and master, Potiphar who acquired him when 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. Whether as a slave, or as a prisoner and finally as a government official, Joseph always seems to rise to the top.
So what’s the key to his success? 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 “becauseGod 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 solely from God. He views his life as if he personally has accomplished nothing and that everything is a gift from Above.
This overwhelming gratitude to God lies in his trait of humility. People often have the wrong idea about humility and think that a very humble person sees him or herself as a nothing. Really it’s the exact opposite. They know that because God is the source of their success, they are everything. When a person understands that his talents are God-given and not self-made then he can take pleasure in those talents and strengths, rather than pride as Rabbi Noah Weinberg used to point out.
This attitude allows those strengths and talents to be maximized to their greatest potential because one realizes that his or her gifts are from a Higher Power and not merely self-made. When you appreciate that the your gifts are from God Himself, then you’re more likely to utilize them to a greater degree than if you think they came from “little ol’ me”. Think of it this way: If the Queen of England gave you a present, you would cherish and guard it much more than if you purchased the exact same article on your own. The origin of something greatly influences how we view it and use it.
To take it a step further, the humble person knows, that not only are his abilities a gift from God, but that the same holds true for anyone and everyone else. God didn’t just give him unique gifts and abilities but did so to everybody. Humble people see the Tzelem Elokim, the Godliness in everyone. He or she 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. And what happens next is the magic that is created when others pick up on and intuit the care, warmth and love that humble people radiate when dealing with others. 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, doesn’t make someone disappear in a crowd. It makes them 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 repulse others as their stench of self permeates the air of any space 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 tied to his humility and appreciation that everything he had, any situation he may have found himself in, was all a gift from God. That, combined with the knowledge that the same is true for anyone around him, 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.
When we meet those few special people like Joseph, we get a taste of our true potential, of who we really could become; thoughts that often get buried so deep that we forgot 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