This week’s Torah portion Vayeshev (Genesis 37:1–40:23), starts with dreams and ends with dreams. Joseph’s dreams foretell that he is destined to rule over his family and the dreams of the butler and baker pave the way to Joseph’s miraculous rise from enslavement to a position of leadership.
My grandmother told me a story of a dream she had concerning an event that eventually occurred. I was skeptical until I had my own experiences with dreams that came to pass.
Although dreams have the potential to encourage proper service of God, the Torah cautions that dreams can also be misinterpreted and misused.
In a powerful warning the Torah states, "If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or wonder, and the signs or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying 'Let us go after other gods whom you have not known and let us serve them'.
You shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul...But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death" (Deuteronomy 13:1-5).
Not only do these verses warn against misinterpreting dreams they also warn against relying on apparent miracles as proof that someone’s claims are true. Despite the Torah’s clear warning some missionaries try to prove Jesus was the messiah because the New Testament claims he performed miracles.
Dreams and miracles play an important role in Judaism; however, they are not definitive proof. The ultimate proof of an individual’s qualification for messianic leadership is their faithfulness to the Torah and God.
Despite miracles, if someone claims to be God, nullifies the eternal commandments and makes statements that contradict the Jewish bible, they are disqualified from being the messiah.
One biblical source that lists the requirements that prove that someone is the messiah is Ezekiel 37:24-28. Ezekiel authoritatively states that the messiah must be Jewish, from the tribe of Judah, a descendant of Kings David (through Solomon), bring peace to the world, gather the Jews to Israel, rebuilt the Temple and bring the entire world to a belief in one God. Unless someone fulfills all these requirements, he is not the messiah.
May this Shabbos provide a taste of the spirituality and peacefulness the world will experience in the messianic age.
Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz