What is a dream? How do we relate to dreams as Jews? Is there any basis for having any special meaning in our life or are dreams just a phenomena of a mind asleep - lacking meaning? Do dreams have any meaning, any revelation?
To say that there is nothing to dreams is obviously against the fundamental teachings from the first book of the Bible, Genesis. The story of Joseph is one of dreams and dream interpretation. Joseph has re-occuring dreams of grandeur and ends up in an Egyptian prison only to be released due to his ability to explain the dreams of the king's servants and finally that of Pharaoh's dreams.
Yet today, we find that the concept of revelation through the medium of dreams is basically a lost thought. Perhaps during the time of the Bible G-d revealed himself to man through the media of dreams, but today? Is there any revelation at all?
Interestingly enough, there is a portion in the Zohar, the basic Jewish book of mysticism, which teaches an important lesson on dreams. In the first volume, page 183b, the Zohar explains "..nothing takes place in the world except what has previously been made known, either by means of a dream of by means of a proclamation. As it has been affirmed that before any event comes to pass in the world, it is first announced in heaven, from where it is proclaimed to the world. Scripture states, "For the Lord will do nothing but he reveals His counsel unto His servants, the prophets." (Amos 3:7) This refers to the time when there were yet prophets in the world. When the prophets ceased, the sages succeeded them. And in our time, when the wise sages are no longer with us, that which is to come is revealed in dreams. If not in dreams, then via the medium of the birds of the heavens."
Here we have a very important principle in dreams; there is a heavenly decree that must be declared before an action can take place. However, we must understand how is this transferred to us and how does it relate to us.
First we must understand that there are three types of dreams: First there is the dream that is indeed divinely inspired. Secondly, there is the dream that is merely an indirect form of revelation that is wrapped up in the most mundane packaging. Thirdly, there is the "false" dream - a dream that lacks any revelation.
This third type of dream is stimulated by the dreamers pre-occupation with worldly desires. Hence during his sleep, his desires and essence, which are bound up in worldly matters, merely plays back a myriad of his daily strivings. This is the lot of those whose days are devoid of spiritual meaning and purity of the soul. This type of dream is normally forgotten quickly and may not even be remembered upon rising.
The second type of dream is the type in which a divine revelation is interwoven with material strivings. In this type of dream, there is some truth, but it is intermixed with the non-senseical theme of the dream. This type of dream stimulates the dreamers wonder, yet can be forgotten after so many days or weeks.
The first type generally comes to the rare individual who has dedicated himself to spiritual purity and has accustomed himself to closeness to G-d. This is the type of dream which is repeated several times and can not easily be forgotten.
How are we to understand our dreams? First, we must ascertain that the dream is not a manifestation of a desire or occurrence that happened while we were awake. Secondly, the time of the dream is also important. If the dream is at the beginning of the night then it may have been influenced by the food eaten before sleep. If the dream is at the end of the night, it may have been influenced by the lack of food in the stomach. When the dream is in the middle of the night then it is a candidate for a divinely inspired dream.
As mentioned briefly above, these types of dreams are very vivid and do not disappear quickly from the memory. If the dream is repeated, then it is a strong candidate for a divinely inspired dream.
It should be mentioned that the Talmud states that the dream will go according to the interpreter. Bearing this in mind, it is important that the dreamer seeks an understanding and wise person to lend the dream to interpretation.
To increase our chance of having divinely inspired dreams, it is beneficial to separate oneself from over indulgence in worldly matters and delights, instead, turning ones daily thoughts on G-d and His Holy desires. In this manner, you will make a strong connection to G-d and certainly He will desire you and a relationship will follow.