“Mikeytz” is known as the Shabbat of Dreams because of the part that dreams play in it even though there are earlier examples of dreams in the Torah. By implication Avraham dreamt first when he fell asleep and God appeared and promised the land of Israel to his descendants. Then God appeared to Avimelech the Philistine King. Jacob dreamt of angels and of course his son Yosef was the master of dreams. He dreamt of his ascendancy and later he correctly interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh and his two servants the butler and the baker.
What is the Torah telling us about dreams? What are their significance? Some people talk of them as a kind of level of prophesy but the Torah also talks about false prophets. But most of us who have dreams don’t believe we are receiving prophecy, just the brain revisiting different events we have experienced and mixing them with anxieties about ourselves and others as well as happier events in our lives.
Sigmund Freud made his reputation through his “Interpretation of Dreams’ in which he suggested that dreams often reflect or reveal things we have suppressed and are very helpful in finding out what has impacted on our lives. Surprisingly the Talmud forestalled him thousands of years ago by saying that “One only sees in dreams what is in one’s heart.” But the Talmud devotes lots space to dreams. As always opinions differ. Very often the rabbis are skeptical “Dream interpretations depend entirely on who interprets them” or “Every dream contains some nonsense.”
In medieval times people took dreams very seriously as if they really could predict what would happen. There were blessing one made after having a dream, asking God to make only the good parts come true. There were even customs of fasting after a bad dream.
Nowadays there are still people who make a living off other people’s vulnerability and pain. But as with Joseph’s dreams there were usually very good reasons why one was punished and the other restored. It was their actions that retrospectively gave the dreams significance and decided a person’s fate. If we have faith in God and place ourselves in a divine embrace we have nothing to fear from dreams, only from ourselves.