June 19, 2020

Brachot 56


Today’s daf (Brachot 56) contains a curious collection dreams along with a wider discussion about the relationship between dream interpretation and dream realization, and it is here (56a) where we are introduced to Bar Hedya who was a dream interpreter.

We are told that two of Bar Hedya’s clients were the Talmudic sages Abaye and Rava. However, while Abaye paid Bar Hedya for his services, Rava did not, and as a result of this Bar Hedya would interpret Abaye’s dreams in a favourable manner, and the dreams of Rava in an unfavourable manner.

Over a period of time, both Abaye and Rava dreamt the same dream, and in each case Bar Hedya gave a positive interpretation to Abaye and a negative interpretation to Rava – including one predicting the death of Rava’s wife. Some time later Rava learnt that Bar Hedya was not merely ‘finding’ the interpretation of his dreams, but instead, ‘creating’ the interpretation of his dreams, and he responded angrily at Bar Hedya and actually blamed him for the death of his wife.

The key question which troubled our Sages relates to how Bar Hedya’s interpretations affected real life situations. Could it really be that way a dream is interpreted leads to its realization according to that interpretation? Though many answers have been suggested to this question, I think there is much wisdom in the answer proposed by Rav Dessler (Michtav M’Eliyahu Vol. 4 pp. 166-167).

He explains that when a person has a dream, it always contains ambiguous messages that can be interpreted in many different ways and it is therefore up to the person to determine how they interpret their dream which will then affect their choices and their subsequent actions. Similarly, when someone else interprets a dream, the choice of accepting that person’s interpretation influences the individual to make life choices consonant with that interpretation.

Overall, Rav Dessler teaches us that it is the truths that we choose, and the truths that we accept, that lead us to the life that we live – so choose wisely.

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