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    Joseph’s dreams – Vayyeshev

    Joseph's dream, from the Holman Bible, 1890

    Joseph’s dream, from the Holman Bible, 1890

    Much of this week’s portion deals with Joseph’s dreams.

    Vivid and fascinating, sometimes they focus on material things and sometimes on spiritual.

    The Lubavitcher Rebbe thinks the interplay of physical and spiritual is characteristic of the Jew.

    The combination is borne out by a discussion between a group of children. They had become rather serious, and were debating why a person eats.

    One said, “I eat in order to grow big and strong and to be able to fight”. Another said, “I eat in order to live and do what God wants”.

    The second is the Jewish way of answering the question. A person inhabits the material world in order to serve God’s spiritual purposes.

    In my own case I recall a conversation I had as a child with my religious mentor. Getting a bit philosophical, I asked my teacher, “Why do we live? What is the purpose of life?”

    My teacher said, “In order to do God’s will”.

    I kept quiet, but I think I felt that this was a religious cop-out. I more or less expected a different kind of answer, and maybe all my life from then onwards I have been seeking the “different” answer.

    I never found one, and I have come to the conclusion that my teacher was right.

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