Dreaming to Toil

November 24, 2018 at 2:04 AM , , ,

“…And behold, we were binding sheaves in the midst of the field – bereishis 37:7

וְהִנֵּה אֲנַחְנוּ מְאַלְּמִים אֲלֻמִּים בְּתוֹךְ הַשָּׂדֶה – בראשית לז, ז

Yosef and Pharaoh both had dreams involving grain. A noticeable difference between these two dreams, however, reflects the fundamental disparity between what each of them represents.

Yosef’s dream opened with a scene of toil. In his dream, Yosef saw himself and his brothers binding sheaves of grain in the field. Conversely, in Pharaoh’s dream, rich ears of grain and gaunt ears of grain were growing from the ground, but there was no labor involved.

The contrast between these two dreams highlights the difference between those who draw their influence and sustenance from kedushah, holiness, and those who are sustained by kelipah, unholy sources.

To derive nourishment from unholy sources comes easy, involving little or no effort. We thus find that Bnei Yisrael told Moshe, “We remember the fish that we ate in Egypt free of charge” (Bamidbar 11:5), which means, as Rashi explains, not that the Egyptians provided them food at no monetary cost, but that their lives in Egypt were free from mitzvah obligations. They referred to their food in Egypt as “free of charge,” because nourishment from Egypt, an allusion to all things unholy, comes easily, without requiring effort or toil.


Conversely, when one’s life is nurtured exclusively from kedushah, everything is earned only through hard work. This is, in fact, G-d’s means of granting us the greatest degree of goodness and delight; for ultimately, things that come without effort are not truly enjoyable. In the words of the Talmud Yerushalmi (Orlah 1:3), “One who eats from the food of another is ashamed to look at his benefactor’s face.” The blessings we enjoy most are those we’ve earned, not those that are handed to us “free of charge.”

It is therefore only natural that the dreams of Yosef—representing the good and holy—began with toil and labor, while the dreams of Pharaoh—representing the unholy—were of growth that did not involve labor.

One who takes the demanding path of Yosef, however, can rest assured that his successes too will follow the pattern and progress of Yosef’s dreams. Though his early beginnings may be humble, he will ultimately reach true heights; like Yosef’s dreams, which progressed from the plant kingdom in the first dream to the celestial beings—“the sun, the moon and the stars”—in the second.

—Likkutei Sichos, vol. 3, pp. 807-808, 820


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