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4/5 December: Parsha Vayeshev

Shabbat comes in 3.38pm; goes out 4.46pm


The dreams of the butler (sar ha-mashkim) and baker (sar ha-ofim) seem quite similar. Each of their dreams contain food (grapes, bread) and the number three (three branches, three baskets). If they are so much alike, what prompted Joseph to explain that the butler, would be restored to his post, while the baker would be hanged ?

The commentator Benno Yaakov says that the text itself indicates that despite the similarities, there was a fundamental difference between the butler’s and baker’s dreams. The butler describes himself as being active-“I took the grapes, pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup, and placed the cup into Pharaoh’s hand.” Here, there is a preponderance of words of action.

The baker on the other hand, was completely passive. Three baskets were on my head, he said, and the birds were eating from the baked goods. Here, there are no verbs descriptive of what the baker did in his dream.

Dreams reveal much about character. Observing this phenomenon, Joseph concluded that the baker is a man who is sitting back and doing nothing — in stark language, he was already dead. The butler’s dreams showed he was a doer, a person of action — worthy of returning to Pharaoh’s palace.

I personally do believe in the power of dreams — but not because they are  predictive of the future. I think they can give us insight into ourselves — to accept or to change who we are. If the baker had understood his unique dreams of passivity early enough, he could have taken action.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Paul Arberman

December 3, 2015