You can smell the cheese and tomato sauce as far as your booth. You have a window view and even so, you feel like you are in the kitchen. The waiter brings the first course (along with the diet cola that is an atonement for present and future sins).
The conversation flows, and before you know it, it’s time for the second course, the chef’s specialty. Each forkful is a piece of art, to be savored before you move on. All too soon you are contemplating desert. At this point the real question is are you
too full to enjoy it. As you contemplate the solution to this difficult problem you wake up.
It was just a dream.
In your haze state of consciousness, it still feels real. Even so, there is one thing that is crystal clear. Eating dinner isn’t at all the same as dreaming about eating dinner.
When you sleep, your mind is no longer blocked by its unceasing activity. Your soul has risen to share its past day with its Creator. Dreams sometimes invade and conquer your mind. They take you a bit beyond where you are right now.
They can give you a window into your inner world (oy vay), they can take you back to what you have experienced. As Ramchal tells you (Derech Hashem), they can at times provide you with a window to what is happening Above, or (often times) into fantasy
and nonsense. When you have a dream, there is one critical question to ask yourself. “What can I learn from this dream? Why did Hashem open the window? If you can’t find an answer to the question, don’t necessarily share it. It’s yours, and its message belongs to you. Seek out a positive interpretation, because the message it provides can take you either way. The one thing that all of these variations have in common, is that they aren’t part of your present reality.
A dream is not a place that you want to live; at most it’s a place to visit.
Real life can be stressful. There’s nothing perfect about this world, nor is there meant to be objective and enduring perfection here. In your stay on the planet, you are like an artist facing an easel and looking at your paints. You are not like an artist who can step back and see the finished piece of art. Imperfection touches everything-your body, your emotional life (friendships, marriage, your relationship with yourself), intellectual pursuit (only if its real) thrives on imperfection - the as yet unsolved puzzle, whether it is a difficult torah concept, or a deep philosophical issue such as suffering, or trying to unlock nature's secrets and finding out that she holds on to them tenaciously. Unlike physical and emotional imperfection, intellectual challenge can take you to places of breathtaking beauty, but only on one condition.
You have to be humble enough to say (to yourself or to others) that there is still more to learn. Spiritual imperfection is the stuff that guilt and self-hatred can be made of, or, alternatively growth, aspiration and tshuvah.
People deal with life’s stresses in all sorts of ways. Do you know someone who is addicted to opioids, drinking-maybe not? Do you know someone with eating issues and/or media addicting? Maybe yes. Maybe it’s the person you see when you look in the mirror.
What all of these solutions to the problem of stress have in common is that they suggest that on some level you prefer the perfection of dreams to the imperfection of reality.
My dear friend, Sarah Berkovitz shared an insight she had about The first dream recorded in the Torah.
It was Yaakov’s dream. He was literally escaping from an unbearable reality. His brother Eisov was plotting to murder him, and he had no choice but to leave everything familiar (imagine leaving the inspiration of being with Yitzchak and Rivka on a daily basis) and on the way to his uncle Lavan’s home (a nightmare in itself), he had a dream. He saw the spiritual forces of Eretz Yisrael ascending, and the angels of the world outside the spiritual hothouse of Eretz Yisrael coming down.
The dream has many interpretations given by Chazal, but regardless of which one you look at, they have one thing in common.
The angels walked step by step.
The bottom of the ladder is here,
in the world of imperfection.
The top is in the (as yet) invisible world
of unity and perfection.
The only way you can get up the ladder
is by taking one step at a time.
The way down can be painful.
The angels of challenge, despair,
Exile descends with awesome consistency.
And all of the familiar stresses and challenges.
You can meet them one at a time
There is a guidebook with instructions
that takes you to the top of the ladder
They move you to the perfect place of unity
They are part of this world’s reality
Assur mans forbidden,
but it also means tied down.
Whatever the Torah deems as assur
is the source of imperfection,
and its purpose
is for you to look it in the eye,
and say NO.
There are things that are muttar, which means permitted
It also means untied, free
For you to use as your springboard to eternity.
Enjoy your life here in Imperfection Land
When Moshiach comes, we will say;
A song of ascents
When Hashem takes Tzion out of captivity, we were like people
In a dream.
Let our captivity, Hashem
Be like dried out streams in the Negev
Those who plant with tears