The story of Joseph is filled with dreams:
• Joseph’s dreams about the sheaves of wheat and the sun, moon, and stars that caused his brothers to hate him;
• The dreams of Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker, which Joseph interpreted and led the cupbearer to suggest that Joseph be brought to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams; and
• Pharaoh’s dreams of the cattle and grain, which Joseph interpreted as a message from God to Pharaoh to prepare for the future and led to Joseph’s appointment as viceroy.
We all dream and we all have dreams — hopes for ambitions we want to fulfill, goals for ourselves and those close to us.
How do hopes become reality? Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, was known for the saying, “Im tirtzu, ein zo agada,” “If you will it, it is no dream.” But it takes more than will, more than wishing, more than prayer.
In my pre-rabbinic life, I worked for a management consulting company. One of the hot concepts then was strategic planning — the idea that corporations should invest in planning where they wanted to go over the next five-year (or longer) period.
So firms hired consultants to help them create strategic plans, and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for binders full of data, mission statements, goals, and strategies. Too often, though, these documents just filled bookcases in corporate headquarters. The problem was the companies didn’t know how to turn those plans into reality.
But the company I worked for insisted that on Friday, senior managers prepare a list of specific things they were going to do Monday morning. Success depended on taking concrete actions for implementing the plan.
This was also the basis of Joseph’s success. When he heard Pharaoh’s dream, he did not merely explain that God was warning about seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine; he also offered a plan of action:
• Let Pharaoh find a wise man and set him over the land of Egypt,
• Let Pharaoh take steps to appoint overseers over the land,
• Let the grain be collected under Pharaoh’s authority to be stored in the cities, and
• Let that food be a reserve for the years of famine.
Since it was Joseph’s plan, he was appointed to carry it out, so that he saved not only Egypt, but also his family, from the ravages of starvation.
It’s not enough to have a dream; it’s not even enough to have a plan. To accomplish anything worthwhile, you have to know what you’re going to do Monday morning.
I often speak to people about becoming more involved Jewishly, taking on new mitzvot, participating more fully in services and synagogue life. I tell them: Don’t worry about doing everything — just do something.
I understand that becoming kosher or shomer Shabbat can be daunting — so start with a small commitment. Decide you won’t eat pork products any more, or you won’t use the computer on Shabbat. These are solid, important steps on a Jewish journey.
The Chinese proverb says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” So take that first step from dream to reality.