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Section: Questions   Category: Hashkafa
Hashkafa - Dreams
Submitted by anonymous  Answered by Rabbi Tzvi Frank
Answer: We find in the Torah numerous examples of dreams with prophetic undertones, foretelling future events which ultimately were realized. For example, Yaakov's dreams with the ladder, Yosef's dreams about his brothers, Pharaoh's servants' dreams, and Pharaoh's dream. We also find various halachos which deal with dreams such as saying the prayer during Birchat Kohanim, the laws of Taanit Chalom (fasting for a dream), Hatovas Chalom etc. which were instituted to nullify any possible ill effects of a bad dream. So the Torah definitely ascribes significance and validity to dreams and their meaning.
Contrasting this we also find the well known Gemara that there is no dream that does not contain nonsense within it. The gemara in Berachos claims that a dream is merely a reflection of one's thoughts throughout the day. Another gemara declares that the dream itself has no intrinsic significance, rather, the interpretation of the dream is what lends it significance and importance. Meaning that the outcome of a dream can be swayed by its interpreter. If this is the case, it obviously can not be considered a communication from on high describing future events.
The Mishneh Brurah Siman 220 writes, based on a gemara in Berachos, that if a person had been suffering during the day and has a disturbing dream the following night, he need not worry as it is just a reflection of his turbulent daytime thoughts.
Apparently, according to Jewish thought, a dream MAY contain future events, warnings or messages but concurrently may also contain elements of meaningless nonsense.  Therefore, although we may certainly be perturbed about a particularly disturbing dream and the institution of Hatavos Chalom was created to address this concern, still, we cannot believe it in its entirety as some parts may have no particular validity at all.
Based on this understanding, the Shulchan Aruch states the following astounding halachah. If a person's deceased father appears to him in a dream claiming that were he to look in a particular location he would find a specific amount of money but that money does not belong to him, rather it belongs to charity. If the person awakens, searches for that money, finds it in the exact location described by his father and even sees it is the exact amount of money enumerated by his father, still, he may keep it for himself. Meaning, even if we clearly recognize the beginning of the dream as genuine and authentic, still, the second part may be the nonsense mixed in and he has no obligation to give that money away to charity!
So how does one ascertain whether his dream is true or not? Some authorities write that a person can determine whether his dream is of the prophetic type by examining the orderliness of the dream and by paying close attention to the impact it has on the dreamer. Others say the difference is between dreams that describe future events rather than past events. Most say that we cannot really establish which parts of a dream are real or not.
If the dream does agitate a person then he should follow the prescribed ritual called Hatavos Chalom the following morning and if he wishes he can accept a fast upon himself which in conjunction with tshuva (repentance) can effectively nullify a bad dream. If on the other hand it simply does not bother him, he may disregard it entirely.
Hope this helps!
Tzvi Frank
posted:2009-01-19 09:28:49

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