In Dreams

Daf 54.

Summary. Perek 9. Mishnah. Here are the blessings one should recite upon seeing a place where “miracles were performed on behalf of the Jewish people,” upon seeing beauty in nature (“but only when he sees it after an interval”), upon happy occasions, and upon sad occasions. No prayer should be uttered to alter events. Also, “a person is obligated to bless God for the bad just as he blessed God for the good.” For example, in the manner of his dress, behavior, and demeanor in the Temple. Following references to rabbinic enactments, the Mishnah provides Scriptural justification for following the rabbinic enactment to greet others using the name of God from Proverbs 23:22 (“Do not shame her, although your mother be old”).

Gemara. The rabbis seek the derivation of the rule to say a blessing on the site of a miracle performed for Israel. Does this imply there is no blessing for a miracle performed for an individual? No, but in the latter case the obligation to recite the blessing falls only on the individual. The gemara enumerates several places where this former blessing must be said, and seeking proof for each in turn, enumerates and expounds upon them allegorically. Why is the transformation of Lot’s wife included? One possible answer: that one who seeks the remains of Lot’s wife should say the blessing One true judge . . . But is this praise and gratitude? No, one is grateful for Lot himself, that God remembered his righteousness.

The gemara turns to the blessings for individuals who have survived dangerous places. “Let them give thanks to Hashem for his kindness.” Abaye says, “And he must give thanks in the presence of ten.” When Rav Yehudha recovers from an illness, others give thanks. “But he himself did not give thanks!” Did he say Amen?

Dag 55.

Summary. Prolonging prayer leads to heartache. (This applies only to one who expects his paryer to be answered.)

Practices that promote long life: welcoming the poor to one’s table and spending a long time on the toilet (unless he squats rather than sits). Practices that shorten life: failure to read Torah; failure to recite a blessing over a cup; assuming “airs of authority” (in private).

Three things that God proclaims: “famine, plenty, and a good leader.” Nevertheless, R’Yitzchak says, “One does not appoint a leader over a community unless one consults the community.”

The gemara presents R’Chisda’s teachings on dreams. For example, “A positive dream is not shown to a good person, and a negative dream is not shown to an evil person.” This is disputed. R’Zeira says, “Whoever sleeps for seven days without having a dream is called wicked.”

The protocol for having a dream interpreted is outlined; also, the protocol to avoid the evil eye.

R’Bana’ah took his dream to all of the dream interpreters in Jerusalem and each offered a different interpretation. Each one came to pass. The gemara debates the import of this outcome. R’Yonason says, “A person is shown nothing [in his dreams] but his own thoughts.”

Daf 56.

Summary. Caesar demands that R’Yehoshua predict what he will dream. He predicts an unpleasant dream in vivid detail. “As it happened, [the Caesar] thought about this vision the entire day and at night he actually saw it in his dream.”

The dream interpreter Bar Hedya’s interpretations are colored by whether or not his clients pay him. Once Rava realizes this, he curses him: “Wicked person! The interpretation of my dream was dependent upon you and it was you who caused me so much pain!” He condemns him to be captured and held by foreign forces without pity. And, in time, it came to pass.

The gemara presents R’Yishmael’s dream interpretations for a Sadducee. Then the gemara reviews a series of symbols and their import in dreams, including some that are sometimes favorable and other times unfavorable, depending upon the verse one recites following the dream.

Comment.

One does not say a blessing upon a dream. There are blessings for surviving dangerous places but not for enduring dangerous dreams. Of course, one must be very cautious about choosing with whom to share the contents of a dream since their interpretations may have a profound effect on the dreamer. Even so, while one cannot pray to alter an event, one can alter a dream by proactively seeking a positive interpretaion. Prayer can lead to heartache for those who pray for a specific outcome, but the conclusion of an open-ended prayer, like the moment one awakens from a dream before it is interpreted, is indeed a moment pregnant with possibility.

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