Miketz: "If you will it, it is no dream."

Sixty-six years ago today (as I write this on November 29, 2013), one of the most momentous dreams in Jewish history came true.  In 1897, just after his First Zionist Congress had concluded, Theodor Herzl wrote in his diary:  "At Basle I founded the Jewish State.  If I said this out loud today I would be greeted by universal laughter.  In five years perhaps, and certainly in fifty years, everyone will perceive it.”  

They did.  On November 29, 1947, the United Nations voted to authorize the establishment of a Jewish state (along with another Arab state).  The Jewish state was neither “founded” in 1897, nor “given” to the Jews in 1947; it had to be birthed and raised in wars.  Moreover, Herzl was not the first to advocate for renewed Jewish political sovereignty in our homeland.  But he was certainly a visionary, and his momentous efforts over a few years (he died just seven years later) laid a foundation for realization of his and his people’s dream.

This week’s Parasha – Miketz – also begins with a dream.  Pharaoh dreams of gaunt cows swallowing up healthy ones on the bank of the Nile (Genesis 41). Those dreams, properly and uniquely interpreted by Joseph as foretelling great abundance followed by extreme famine, led to the building of grain storehouses sufficient to feed both Egyptian and Jewish peoples (the latter through Joseph’s provision of grain to his brothers and father).  

When we refer to our “dreams,” we mean not only our sleep-state consciousness but also our most cherished – and seemingly unattainable – desires.  But if we are to accomplish great things, we must “dream” that they are indeed possible.  

In his book, Altneuland, (“Oldnewland”) Herzl famously wrote: “If you will it, it is no dream.”  Less well-known is the second half of his sentence:  “and if you do not will it, a dream it is and a dream it will stay.”  Most of us don’t will ourselves to realize our dreams.  The just-concluded American holiday of Thanksgiving is perhaps an example of our complacency.  As usually celebrated, Thanksgiving is a time to acknowledge and enjoy the manifest blessings of what we have, rather than to also, or primarily, celebrate the potential of realizing great dreams ... if only we dared dream them.  

Miketz and the achievements of Herzl remind us that if we do not dream great things and work to fulfill them, great things will remain …. dreams. That would be a nightmare for our future and for future generations. 

When was the last time you identified your greatest dream(s)?  Wrote them down?  Seriously discussed them with family and friends?  Worked out a plan to begin accomplishing them?  Started working that plan?   

Susan Sontag wrote:  “I was not looking for my dreams to interpret my life, but for my life to interpret my dreams.”  I remember hearing Rev. Robert Schuller related that when someone wished for him, “I hope your dreams all come true!” he replied, “I hope that they don’t, or I will have finished dreaming before I died!”  

These and similar statements express the philosophy of those who accomplish great dreams.  We can be among them, even if we “only” manage to spur others to dream and accomplish.   

Miketz means “at the end.”  It might also be interpreted as “mi-k-etz;” meaning, “who is like a tree.”  Trees send down roots for a firm foundation, upon which they reach upward toward the sky.  And so can we!   

May we continue dreaming … but working to make dreams come true.

Shabbat shalom and Channukah sameach … and may we dream and realize great dreams! 

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