Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Book of Dreams

Before Rosh Hashanah, I spent Shabbos with my parents while my mother's second cousin from Israel was there. I've known him for most of my life but during this visit I learned something about him. It seems that he grew up around Prof. Yishayahu Leibowitz and even sat a few rows behind him in synagogue. We discussed Prof. Leibowitz for a while and what he was like in person (intentionally provocative). My mother was recently in Israel and saw a sale on two books by Prof. Leibowitz. Remembering that Shabbos discussion, she bought the books for me. So I am now the owner of seven years' worth of Prof. Leibowitz's teachings on the weekly Torah portion.

On Va-Yetzei, Prof. Leibowitz makes the interesting observation that the book of Genesis is unique in the number of dreams it contains when compared to other books of the Bible. For example, Avraham (Gen. 16:12), Ya'akov (28:12), Avimelech (20:7), and of course Yosef (37:5) and Pharaoh (41:1). And there are more. What is it about this book that makes it so full of dreams?

Prof. Leibowitz offers two suggestions, while insisting that they are only tentative. First, he suggests that the book of Genesis in general consists of many things that are unknown or unknowable. It is a book of mysterious and unfathomable beginnings, and man can only approach these topics through dreams rather than intellect.

His second suggestion builds on the fact that Genesis precedes the giving of the Torah. After the Torah was given, man's approach to God is through the Torah, through the conscious intellect. However, prior to the giving of the Torah, man could approach God through intuition rather than just rational thought. Knowing God non-rationally is knowing God through a dream, which is clarified and crystallized through the lens of the Torah.

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Favorites More