This is the third post in an interfaith series on remembrance of ancestors. I’ve partnered with Yvonne Aburrow, a Wiccan who writes for Sermons from the Mound, to explore remembrance traditions in each of our faiths.
I can think of at least three important dreamers in the Old Testament: Joseph, Pharaoh and Tevye. (HAHAHA – KIDDING! I may not know how to bake challah, but I know Tevye wasn’t in the Bible…)
In exploring the remembrance of my grandfather in the context of my religion (Judaism) and Yvonne’s (Wicca), I turn to my dear friends: the Internets. I’ve always known and respected how earth-bound Judaism is. Wicca is similar in its connection to the earth and the living. In the case of dreams, however, it seems to me Judaism has more spiritual interpretations of dreams, while Wiccan interpretation (though still recognizing the Divine) approaches dreams with a more common psychological and pragmatic approach.
We sleep because God, so to speak, cannot bear to be away from us too long without closer contact.
When we sleep our souls ascend heavenward. Only a residue remains to keep our bodies alive. The rest returns to its source to be reinvigorated and refreshed with spiritual nourishment. We who are created in the image of God need more than the food we ingest for our bodies during the day in order to survive. The out of body experience we call sleep is a trip we have to make on a daily basis to keep our sanity, so that our souls do not perish of starvation from being deprived of heavenly sustenance.
Rabbi Blech has this to say about dreams:
The reason we dream is because our souls have been on a trip, and our dreams capture the photos they want to show us of their journey. They are the keepsakes of our nightly rendezvous with Heaven.
Each bit of your dream has a message for you. The subconscious doesn’t waste any bandwidth! It will layer meaning within meaning, for you to discover . . . whenever you choose to know yourself and the Divine this intimately.
Interpreting the message involves understanding the symbols used as the dream’s vocabulary, which, of course, varies from person to person.
Dreams speak in symbols, as we’ve seen. The thing is, everyone’s symbols are unique.
Your dreams will speak with a vocabulary of symbolism that relates to your personal experiences in life.
For example, (again, according to Ms. Dragonsong) a dream involving cars may have different meanings based the dreamer. The car symbolizes one thing to a teenager stepping into adulthood, and quite another to someone who has recently been in an car crash.
In both Judaism and Wicca, though, dreams are considered a divine connection of sorts. Aron Moss, of Chabad.org writes that in the dream state,
the soul is free to experience visions and encounters that are usually off-limits to beings of this world. This includes the possibility of meeting other disembodied souls—particularly the souls of loved ones who have passed away.
Dreams (and nightmares) always leave me with the feeling I had in the dream – even when I’ve awakened. They not only feel like reality, they ARE reality to the dreamer’s mind. Once I had a dream about hiding from a KKK rally. When I woke up, I called my then-boyfriend, terrified, and it took him AT LEAST 15 minutes to convince me it was okay to look out of the window to confirm that there was not, actually, a KKK rally happening on my street.
It’s the same with lovely dreams. The dreams I have about my grandfather are few and far between. Always, though, always, I awaken from them happy and grateful. I have never had a bad dream about him. Whether we’re just walking and talking, or eating an ice cream cone, or sitting at his kitchen table, the dreams leave me feeling like I’ve just received a gift of immeasurable value. I feel like I’ve been given more time with him in these dreams.
Rabbi David Rosenfeld explains the difference in Judaism between dreams and prophecies in this way: In a prophecy, the prophet knows he is viewing the future.
A dream, by contrast, is an entirely different experience. The dreamer is not merely viewing the future. He is experiencing it right then. He feels that the events of his dream are occurring to him at that very moment.
When viewed in this context, it makes all the sense in the world that when I dream of my grandfather, I’m never sad, or consumed with the feeling of loss I felt when he first died. I’m grateful for a tiny bit of extra time, even if it happens while I’m asleep, with the man who buttoned up his shirt and put on a tie to drive me four blocks home. Time with the guy who, as soon as he knew we’d left our apartment for his, stood at his 6th floor window waiting for me and my sister to come into view on the street below. The man who, as my sister recently recalled, would get teary eyes and an impish grin as he greeted us with a, “Hiya, pal!” the minute we crossed his threshold.
The man who, while he was spending the winter in Florida, and learned we had bought our first house in Virginia, wrote (no, typed, actually) the following poem in a letter to us:
“We gazed long at the map today,
And though it is so far
Across those many colored shapes
To that one where you are,
We breathed a mighty wishing kiss
Across the starry blue;
Unless it’s tangled in those stars,
It should be reaching you.”
That might very well be the last letter he wrote to us…he died three months later.
So, dreams of my grandfather? I’m not sure it’s a Divine connection. I am sure, however, that the connection is divine.