Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah – Mikeitz
What does it mean to have completed a task? When you say, “I did that,” you’ve drawn a line in the sand. Time gets measured as before accomplishment and after accomplishment; there is a break in the action. There is a world of difference between “I ate” and “I am eating” or between I read” and “I am reading.”
This week’s Torah portion begins, “Pharoah was dreaming.” The text (even in Hebrew) intonates a transitive or ongoing verb. The 14th-century work Midrash Hagadol teaches us, “Should it not say, ‘And Pharaoh dreamed?’ But this is to teach us that for two years Pharaoh would see this dream each and every night.” The commentary goes on to say that even while Pharaoh may not remember having this dream when it came time to act on it, it was right there to share with Joseph. It was not a “one and done.” So important is the dream sequence to the story of our time in Egypt, that the Torah helps us understand that Pharaoh’s dreams plagued him until someone, notably Joseph, could interpret them.
When our involvement in life’s endeavors is ongoing, we gain the opportunity to learn more from and give more back to each experience. I can say that I enjoyed a meal that I finished. The intensity of the message pails in comparison to being able to share the ongoing experience, in continuing to enjoy it. We experience lots of fun and meaningful experiences over the course of our lives. The ones that are impactful stay with us and continue to teach us.
Our Torah portion reminds us that our life experiences are cumulative. Even while an event may end, its impact forever changes us – even if only in small ways. On our last trip to Key West, we dined at the Hot Tin Roof and had the most fabulous experience. The meal ended, but the conversation about the meal and everything that went with the experience continues and will, when appropriate, drive us back to dine there in the future.
When someone tells me that they are “Dying” with a disease, I remind them death happens, but that they are living until they die. They must not treat life as if it is over – until it is. That said, even as to death, the sages chose the traditional prayer for study to memorialize the people we love who have transitioned from their earthly course. As we conclude the study, we thank God for the continuing impact that the study has in changing our lives. No differently, even after someone leaves our hands, he/she still has a lot to say in how we see the world and our personal role in its evolution. So, even while the quintessential Country Western Song may be the late George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” I would hate to think that after a lifetime of loving someone, it was that easy to just turn off. Even tragedies add to our cumulative story and appreciating them in context can still lead to blessing.
We live in a society that trains us to finish tasks and move on. In school, students cram for an exam, dump their knowledge on the test paper, blot it out of their minds and cram for the next exam. We know, however, that everything we learn should impact and inform everything else we learn. My daughter’s high school chemistry teacher taught students to appreciate chemistry by demonstrating the impact of chemical reactions involved in baking cookies, creating alloys for appliances, combustion of gas for powering their cars, and all sorts of practical applications beyond the test tube and beaker in the classroom.
How can we ever evolve in blessing if everything is a one-off or do-over? Blessings come from being able to appreciate the process of living and not just the events along the timeline. There exists a line connecting each happening in our lives that builds the picture of who we are and will be. In no place is this realization more important than in remembering to dream. Our dreams involve our relationships with people (intimate, professional, and filial), professional and personal desires and goals, and hopes for societal healing. What we dream today may not be ripe until years later, but if our dreams are only for the moment, then our lives lose their value. As life evolves, our dreams change. Our needs are transitive as must be our dreams. The time will come for them to bear fruit. We need to be open and aware; ready and hopeful to seize the day and the opportunity. May we be blessed to dream, to appreciate our dreams, and be ready to make them come true.