Torah Reading for Week of December 13 – December 19, 2009
“The Stuff That Dreams are Made Of”
by Hazzan Paul A. Buch, ’05
This week’s parashah begins with the words “After two years’ time, Pharaoh dreamed. . .” so it should be no surprise that in preparing this D’var Torah, I thought quite a bit about dreams. At the same time, songs about dreams, or at least songs with the word “dream” in the title have been particularly present on my internal turntable, especially a Carly Simon song from the ‘80s called “The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of.” It was on her “Coming Around Again” album and though I didn’t then and don’t now fit into the expected Carly Simon fan demographic, for me this was a “headphone record”, something I’d put on the stereo late at night and then, lying in bed with the headphones on, do my best to become totally immersed in the aural landscape that Carly and her producers painted. It was also a likely attempt to focus my own dreams, for that night at least, on something other than the turbulence and uncertainty I was experiencing at that time during the waking hours.
As that song played over and over again in my head (“It’s the stuff that dreams are made of, it’s the slow and steady fire. It’s the stuff that dreams are made of, it’s your heart and soul’s desire.”), I didn’t attach any particular relevancy to the lyrics in relation to this portion other that the presence of the word “dreams.” Nor did I perceive a link to the narrative around which the song structured; a story of how unrealized expectations can sometimes lead us to run from or push away potentially rewarding relationships, due largely to our impatience and fear.
That was, however, until I read the take my friend Michael Jacobs, the “Web Darshan,” has on Miketz. Michael sees the forced separation of Joseph from his family and the eventual reconnection that begins in Miketz as not only a metaphor for the struggles of the entire Jewish people, but that regarding Joseph “each and every one of us shares some, if not all of his qualities, as do all the members of the human race! We each have the yetzer (inclination) to sweep things under the carpet,” Michael says, “that is: to bury, repress or otherwise encapsulate all kinds of thoughts, feelings or actions; stuff that most of us would really like to excise from our memories. Like Joseph, we must constantly adapt to new situations.”
“Most of the time,” he continues, “this requires us to adopt a chameleon-like approach to our environment, and eventually to spawn the creation of whole new identities: a new spouse, a new child, a new home, new friends or even a new job can each initiate such changes. Then again, there are all those things we simply don’t want to deal with. The story of Joseph teaches us that repressing stuff really does not work as a long-term solution.”
Looking back now 20+ years ago, this was exactly where I was at when I first heard this Carly Simon song – frustrated with having assumed a life role I knew just wasn’t me, but also nearly powerless to change
As I’ve thought about this message over the past weeks, I have also come to realize its pertinence in terms of the link Parashat Miketz always has with the celebration of Chanukah. The word “chanukah,” formed Hebrew root chet, nun, chaf, is connected with root meanings such as “initiated, dedicated, disciplined.” As the Hasmoneans were able to “rededicate” the Holy Temple after a period of defilement, Joseph was able to set aside the hurt and dirt of the relationship with his brothers and decide to travel the path back to wholeness. And for me, this was the inspiration that came from Carly Simon’s song – that I could stop living someone else’s dream and start living my own. As Michael Jacobs writes, “One of the things that we can learn from the story of Chanukah is that a little determination is really all it takes to retain our values, and remain true to them.”
May all of us, at this season, find the strength and faith that can make the “stuff” of all of our best dreams come true.