Mixed-Up Dream

In the beginning of parshat Miketz we read about Pharaoh’s dreams (Exodus 41:1-32). In his dreams he is standing by the river deep in thought. And out of the river come seven skinny cows that eat the seven fat cows that preceded them. Thoroughly disturbed, Pharaoh is rattled from his sleep. When he falls asleep again he has a second dream. In this dream there are seven thin ears of corn which consume the seven healthy ears of corn that preceded them. And sure enough there is no one in Egypt besides Joseph who can correctly interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. The brilliance of Joseph is that he realizes that these two dreams were really just one dream foretelling the seven years of plenty which would be followed by seven years of famine.

But this week’s Torah portion is Ki Tisa. In this week’s parsha we learn about the receiving of the Tablets, the Sabbath, the Golden Calf, the breaking of Tablets, and then the revelation of God’s self to Moses. With so many interesting things to talk about this week, why would I waste your time on parshat Miketz? To answer this question I will have to answer another two questions. How could the Israelites, who were so close to God in this week’s Torah portion, betray God by making the Golden Calf? And if they were going to reject God, why did they choose the media of a Golden Calf?

The Golden Calf is a chimerical representation of Pharoah’s dreams. It is a hybrid of the form of the cows of the first dream and the color of the stalks of the second dream. When they were in Egypt the Israelites had acculturated to the point that they saw themselves as Egyptians. Their lot was to manifest the dreams of Pharaoh. Not only do they combine the dreams of Pharaoh into one dream, they appropriate them as their own. So even in a time of achievement they still want to be accomplished by Pharaoh’s standards. Unfortunately it is someone else’s dream and not their own.

Living vicariously is a nightmare that leaves us without drive or integrity. If we want to be satisfied and self actualized we need to strive to fulfill our own dreams. But to do that we need to identify who we are and what our dreams are. Our current economic crisis was born out of people  taking out credit beyond their means in pursuit of living out other people’s dreams. We are currently living in lean times. Having less money during this depression has allowed/forced many of us to refocus on what is truly important to us.

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