Dreams, False Prophets and Red Flags
In Sigmund Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams (1899), he speaks about the significance of dreams and develops a psychological technique for their interpretation.
Once, my grandmother told me about a dream she had that came to pass. I was skeptical until I had my own experiences with dreams and their fulfillment. How do we explain this?
Before Freud, Jewish sages discussed the role of dreams. Rabbi Eliezer Papo (1785–1828) wrote that most dreams are simply thoughts that are recycled from what occupied our minds during the day. Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812), based on the ancient Kabbalah, explains that meaningful dreams emanate from a very high spiritual level. The Zohar, page 149b, says certain dreams are “six levels below the level of prophecy.”
There are numerous accounts of dreams in the Torah, and some of the most well-known dreams are found in this week’s Torah portion Vayeshev (Genesis 37:1–40:23). Joseph’s dreams foretell that he is destined to rule over his family, and the dreams of the butler and the baker pave the way to Joseph’s miraculous rise from enslavement to leadership.
Since some dreams are meaningful and others foolish, it is not surprising that the Torah cautioned us about the danger of misinterpreting dreams.
In a striking passage, the Torah warns against following dreams, signs, and false prophets.
"If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises and gives you a sign or wonder that come true concerning, which he said to you '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 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, but they also warn against relying on signs and apparent miracles as proof that a claim is true. In other words, God may allow a false prophet to perform a “miraculous sign” to test our faithfulness to God and the Torah.
The prominence of the Torah’s warning of false prophets calls into question a story in the New Testament book of John chapter 9. John claims that Jesus miraculously healed a blind man, and the Rabbis doubted the claim. In their discussion, some rabbis, who had witnessed Jesus break the Shabbat asked, “how could a sinner perform such signs?” What is shocking that the rabbis are silent and offer no explanation.
One would expect the rabbis to answer that based on Deuteronomy 13 Jesus is could be a false prophet and the sign is just a test.
The absence of this argument raises several possibilities. First, the story was edited by the church and the obvious response was deleted. Second, the story is a fabrication and never happened, and finally, it was intentionally included in the New Testament as a red flag to warn Jews that the New Testament is not inspired by God as Christians claim.
It is known that the early church censored rabbinic writings that were unfavorably toward Jesus. In 1979, I met Rabbi Yehudah Blau who was allowed access to the Vatican’s private archives. Rabbi Blau discovered some of the censored manuscripts and a statement that Paul was actually sent by the Jewish Sanhedrin to infiltrate the early church and alter the texts to make them less appealing to Jews.
Although controversial, this claim would explain Paul’s rejection of the sacred ritual of circumcision and his introduction of the unacceptable belief that Jesus was God. These omissions would appeal to gentiles but be unacceptable to Jews.
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 that something is true or that someone is the messiah. The Talmud recounts stories of many righteous rabbis who performed miracles however, this did not make them the messiah. The ultimate proof of an individual’s qualification for messianic leadership is their faithfulness to the Torah and God and the fulfillment of all messianic requirements.
Ezekiel 37:24-28 authoritatively states that “the messiah must be Jewish, from the tribe of Judah, a descendant of King David (through Solomon), bring peace to the world, gather the Jews to Israel, rebuild the Temple and bring the entire world to a belief in one God.”
May this Shabbos provide a taste of the spirituality and peacefulness the world will experience in the messianic age.
Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz
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