One of the most electrifying speeches of the 20th century – and possibly of all times – was that of civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr in Washington DC on August 28,1963. It reaches its climax with the memorable phrase: “I have a dream”.
It captured the attention of the world and resonates for us today, not only for the way it was delivered with passion and aching eloquence, but also because it reminds us that to be human is to be able to dream.
Jewish tradition believes in the power of dreams. Our founding text, the Bible or Torah, is saturated with dreams and all the founders of Judaism (in Bereshit, the beginning book) are dreamers. Jacob dreams of a ladder that stretches from heaven to earth and his son Joseph dreams of the stars and the land and also famously interprets the dreams of others.
The essential Rabbinic text of Judaism, the Talmud, takes dreams seriously. It devotes an entire chapter to dreams (Brachot, Chapter 9). To dream is to believe in the future, to hope, which is so important for the human heart and human condition. To dream is to create the capacity for improving the world.
The story of Joseph and the chapter of the Talmud remind us that you need to work to fulfil your dreams. You need to develop a plan of implementation. In other words dream big, but also be a practical dreamer! The Talmud puts it this way – a dream which is close to the dawn, is repeated and lends itself to interpretation is worthy of your attention.
We are living in dangerous and difficult times and it is at times like this that we need to hold fast to our dreams.
The Jewish people, despite thousands of years of persecution and suffering never let go of their dream of creating a better world. We are, says the Psalmist, like dreamers, the people of the dream, which is also why we feel such an affinity with the first nation of this country, the people of the dream-time.
We join together with all people of heart and vision who can share this dream. So let’s keep on dreaming and doing!
Ralph Genende is rabbi of Kehilat Kesher – The Connecting Community Inc