CHALUMOT – DREAMS – Cindy Elliott

A Word for the Month of KISLEV – A MONTH OF DREAMS

When the white eagle of the North is flying overhead
The browns, reds and golds of autumn lie in the gutter, dead.
Remember then, that summer birds with wings of fire flaying
Came to witness springs new hope, born of leaves decaying.
Just as new life will come from death, love will come at leisure.
Love of love, love of life and giving without measure
Gives in return a wondrous yearn of a promise almost seen.
Live hand-in-hand and together we’ll stand on the threshold of a dream. [1]

What would the world be like without dreams? Life immersed solely in materialism is coarse and bleak. It lacks the inspiring grandeur of expansive horizons; like a bird with clipped wings, it cannot raise itself above the bitter harshness of the present reality. We are only able to free ourselves from these shackles through the power of dreams.

Some foolishly take pride in being ‘realists.’ They insist on taking into account only the present state of the world – a partial and fragmented view of reality. In fact, it is our dreams which liberate us from the limitations of the current reality. It is our dreams that accurately reveal the inner truth of the universe.  [2]

Sefer Yetzirah 5:9 tell us that Kislev is ‘the month of sleep’, it is also considered ‘the month of dreams.’ Maybe that is because our bodies are physiologically attuned to the seasons. In Kislev as the days grow increasingly shorter and the nights increasingly longer, many of us grow increasingly lethargic. With the faded light and so much of nature resting, we tend to follow suit. We move less and sleep more and with sleep comes dreams.

Or, it could be that Kislev is called the month of dreams because within the Torah portions for this month, Va’yetze, Va’yeshev, and Miketz, we read about dreamers and nine of the ten dreams recorded in Bereshit.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman [3] said, “One must live with the times.” Rabbi Yehudah Leib, Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s brother, later expounded on what his brother meant: “‘One must live with the times’ means that every day one should ‘live with’ and experience in one’s own life the Torah portion of the week and the specific section of the week’s portion which is connected to that day.” [4]  So maybe Kislev is a time to examine and give consideration to the thoughts, the images, and the sensations that fill our minds as we sleep.

Not all our sleeping dreams are a revelation from Heaven – but all our dreams are under the sovereignty of our Creator. Many of our dreams may stem from what and who we choose to occupy our mind on that day (Romans 12:2, Philippians 4:8) and the meditations of our heart (Psalm 19:14, Luke 6:45). Other’s may spring from our hopes, joys, fears, or disappointments – fragments of our lives – even a releasing of a day’s frustrations. Or, we can humorously consider, they could simply be triggered by indigestion!

Rav Chisda [5] said that a dream that is not interpreted / understood is like an unread letter. As long as it is not interpreted it cannot be fulfilled. So maybe it is worth giving our dreams a moment of thought. But a word of caution, dreams do not always track the truth reliably. Our brain works differently while we are sleeping. The part of the brain that controls logic and rational becomes relatively inactive while we sleep – so our dreams can be stimulating and emotionally charged, but, completely irrational. Berakhot 55a tells us that just as it is impossible to grow grain without straw, so too it is impossible to dream without nonsense. One thing we do know from Scripture – G-d does at times speak to us through dreams. And maybe at times it is simply to stir our soul or quicken our spirit.

Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook taught, “The dream is the conception of one’s direction which sent from heaven for the purpose of activating one’s energies lying dormant in the soul.…Dreams serve as a boost from G-d helping to develop the quality of the soul of man.”  [6]

But really – what are we to make of this month of dreams?

He reveals mysteries from the darkness
And brings the deep darkness into light.
Job 12:22

Remember as a child how a dark room sent your imagination into hyper-drive? Maybe Kislev – a time of ephemeral darkness – could be to us a hyper-sensory space in time. Light illuminates, it makes things more visible. Light is about optics. But Kislev is a month of darkness. Darkness has less to do with optics but everything to do with other senses. Maybe Kislev is a space to become truly sensitive to those things that are understood and seen more vividly in the dark or with our eyes shut. Maybe it’s a time to wake up and dream.

But what about nightmares?

When you lie down, you will not be afraid; When you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
Proverbs 3:24

[Abba], I am Yours and my dreams are Yours. I have dreamt a dream and I do not know what it is. Whether I have dreamt about myself, or my companions have dreamt about me, or I have dreamt about others, if they are good dreams, confirm them and reinforce them like the dreams of Joseph, and if they require a remedy, heal them, as the waters of Marah were healed by Moses, our teacher, and as Miriam was healed of her leprosy and Hezekiah of his sickness, and the waters of Jericho by Elisha. As you have changed the curse of the wicked Balaam into a blessing, so too, change all my dreams into something good for me. [7]

All of us know how truly disturbing it is to be startled awake by a nightmare. Heart pounding, adrenaline racing, sweaty and weak. Rav Yehuda said, “Three matters require a plea for mercy to bring them about: A good king, a good year, and a good dream. These three…are all bestowed by G-d and one must pray that they should be positive and constructive…A good king, as it is written: “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord as the watercourses: He turns it whithersoever He will” (Proverbs 21:1). A good year, as it is written: “The eyes of the Lord, thy G-d, are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year” (Deuteronomy 11:12). And a good dream, as it is written: “O Lord, by these things men live, and altogether therein is the life of my spirit; wherefore You will restore my health to me [vataḥlimeni], and make me to live” (Isaiah 38:16). [8] The word taḥlimeni (restore, health) is derived from the word cḥalom, dream. May G-d turn all our dreams to good, healthy ones!

Shaina metukah ve’Chalumot Paz!
May you have sweet sleep, and beautiful, golden dreams!

Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, Creator of the Universe. Thank you for making us dreamers. Abba may you be both the wellspring and the inspiration of our dreams. Breathe Your dreams into our hearts and minds and Abba bind firmly upon our hearts those dreams that are from You and meant for our good and for the good of others. May we spend our waking hours filling our hearts and minds with what is good, right, and holy so when we sleep we can dream in league with You. Abba as we kindle the lights of Hanukkah, please rekindle our dreams.

Wake Up and Dream

in the dark wintery light
winter’s shadow unfurls and clings
to bare branches
and faded grasses

sparse beauty
bare-boned landscape
nature resting
winter yawns

aah…a contagious yawn

in the watery light of slumbering
safe and warm in Your embrace
Abba I am listening
I sleep
but my heart is awake*

sing over me your songs**
and sow Holy seeds
of lovingkindness
Divine intentions
deeds and desires

at the threshold of wakefulness
before my dreams begin to fade
let those seeds sprout roots of remembering
and kindle Holy Sparks
illuminating the darkness

“A little light dispels great darkness!” ~ Baal Shem Tov

~ Cindy Elliott

* Song of Songs 5:2
** Psalm 42:8

Photo Credits –

1. Graeme Edge, The Dream
2. Rabbi Chanan Morrison, Sapphire from the Land of Israel, 279
3. Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, 1745-1812, was the founder and first Rebbe of the Chabad branch of chassidism, known also as the “Alter Rebbe,” “the Rav,” and as “Baal HaTanya”. He is the author of Tanya and Shulchan Aruch HaRav, a code of Jewish law.
4. As recorded by Yanki Tauber in Living With The Times
5. Rav Chisda (C. 290 – C. 320 CE) was a Amoraim of the third generation. Amoraim – one who told over teachings of the oral Torah – Jewish scholars of the period from about 200 to 500 CE.
6. Midbar Shur 222-6, 231
7. Prayer for dreams recited during the Priestly Blessing, Talmud, Berakhot 55b
8 Berakhot 55a

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