Hold fast your dreams
by Mary C Legg
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I-9 Vayeishev Gn 37-40:23
"And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it to his brethren: and they hated him yet the more." Gn 37: 5
Why hate a person for a dream? A dream is something that fades away as we awake to the reality of life around us. A dream is a fantasy, a faery nothingness of wishful hopes. And yet the sons of Leah: Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah were incensed enough to waylay Joseph, the son of Rachel and throw him into a deserted well to die beneath the unrelenting desert sun.
Throughout history, there are accounts of assassination plots involving the death of a dreamer or an idealist who desired to improve the general condition of life for mankind. We name them in our calendars and mark them with holidays, recognzing their names as parts of historic events: Thomas More who opposed Henry VIII, Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy are honored as martyrs. Historically, we analyze their lives and justify their deaths through events, but as we sweep away the crumbling elements of history; the perplexing question still remains: why?
Each had faults; each was human and failed in some personal matters and had known weaknesses, and yet they died in violent circumstances. The whole of history is filled with ages of innocent deaths that cannot be easily explained through black and white moralism of doing right or wrong. The basic question still remains, why? Why the furnaces of Nazi Germany devouring the lives of the righteous and innocent along with those who were probably morally corrupt. Those furnaces did not stop to discriminate whether someone had lived a life of integrity or corruption. The deths involved were senseless and irrational.
In the story, the brothers seem to justify their hatred by a physical reality: Joseph had a multi-striped coat, compounded with an emotional isecurity: he was loved by his father more than the others.
However, a close reading strips both these justifications away as being superficial excuses, inventions to justify their hatred and later vengeful actions. There is a substantial age difference between the sons of Leah and Rachel's eldest. And in reality, it should be Jacob jealous of the older brothers because although his mother was Jacob's primary choice for wife, she became his second through indentured labor. Joseph is born at a disadvantage to his elder brothers who benefit their mother's primary position. They are grown and in command of their own flocks. Judah is married. This is not the sibling rivalry of a two-year-old with a three-eyar-old grappling over a vaunted toy; but grown men heckling a youth reaching manhood.
And as for the coat, any one of them could have probably ordered one from a tailor himself, but didn't do it. Their past lives reflect brutality in the slaughter of Hamor and Schehem. Judah seems to be irresponsible regarding Tamar, sending her back to her father's house when his son dies. She can't marry so long as she is officially betrothed to Judah's youngest and he does not provide for her as a daughter-in-law. Judah dumps her unceremoniously onto the street, shaming her before her family.
Reuben, crawls into bed with Bilhah and so disgraces his father and his father's children.
Each has done something socially inacceptable or contemnable, therefore it is no wonder that Israel finds joy in Joseph his first-born of his desired wife. Joseph dreams. He is the idealist. When he is called to do something, he responds immediately, "I am here." He is responsible to receive authority at a young age;. His father can count on him to be honest even if it means offending his elder brothers; the four eldest are not very reliable. Although they are supposed to be at Schechem, Joseph finds them near Dothan where they sabotage him and put him in a pit. Why? Because of a dream, a faery nothing.
There is an ancient Greek saying that man is but a shadow of a dream. Without a dream, you are nothing. Without a dream, you are no different than the grass that passes away beneath the scorching sun. A dream, because it is made of airy nothing, has the ability to float to the heavens and therefore elevate man above his bethren. A dream inspires a person to do that which he would otherwise never have the courage to do and it prevents him from doing what he find reprehensible. It aligns and unifies his inner life with his outer behavior so that he becomes accountable to God and men. And for this men are killed by those who are jealous of their position and leadership; their courage to do the right thing despite pressure to submit to the injust and corrupt.
When you doubt yourself, look internally and pray for the dream; have the courage to hang onto it, even when you find yourself beseiged in the pit.
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I have often thought about the brothers reaction to the dream- Personlly I think they just happened to see God show up in that dream and because they were already in rebellion against God,they rebelled some more. Joseph just got cought in the cross fire. Nice work!
Amen! I needed this more than you know.