The story of Joseph’s life reads like a Shakespearean drama. The favorite son of a regal father, he is hated and loathed by his brothers. They eventually attempt to kill him, and then decide to sell him into slavery to Egypt. But Joseph turns misfortune into opportunity, becoming the head of the household at his master’s home.
Then, disaster strikes again. His master’s wife tries to seduce him, and when she fails, has him thrown into jail. As he languishes there he meets two senior palace officials who have also been imprisoned and he befriends them. One of them is executed almost immediately, but the other one is freed and reinstated, and eventually has Joseph freed from his incarceration. Once again Joseph’s fortune changes. He meets with Pharaoh, and is promptly elevated to the most powerful executive position in Egypt, second only to Pharaoh himself. After an incredible drama involving his brothers, who come to Egypt for food supplies, Joseph is reconciled with his family, and reunited with his aged father, who moves the entire family to Egypt.
There is one crucial detail that has been omitted from this summary. It is a thread that runs throughout the Joseph saga and is an aspect of the story that seems to play a crucial role – the three pairs of dreams that dominate the narrative at key moments. The first and second pair of dreams occur in this week’s portion, Vayeishev, with the final pair in next week’s portion, Mikeitz.
In this week’s shiur Rabbi Dunner introduces the initial pair of dreams and looks at how the early commentaries understood them. In next week’s shiur he will look at a more recent commentator, to show how difficult it is to gain a meaningful understanding of the dream aspect of the Joseph saga. To try and get to the bottom of this strange phenomenon, Rabbi Dunner will compare the initial two dreams of this week’s portion with the other two pairs, to see how they match up with each other, and to see whether their treatment in the text and by the commentaries is similar or different. Rabbi Dunner will then suggest a comprehensive solution to the entire dream phenomenon, so that all the three sets of dreams make sense independently, and vis-a-vis each other.