Once upon a time
Daphna knocked on her older sister’s bedroom door. “Aviva, can you help me with my math homework?”
“Sure, come on in” said Aviva. “I just have to finish writing this paragraph for my essay. I’ll be with you in just a minute.”
While Daphna was waiting, she began to look at the books on the shelf next to her.
“Wow. That is the coolest sticker book! Can I look through it?”
Aviva passed it to her, “Sure. Just don’t move any of the stickers, okay? Look with your eyes only, not with your hands,” she smiled at Daphna as she reviewed her “rules”.
Daphna opened it up and marvelled at the “Scratch n Sniff” stickers, the sparkly stars, the puffy hearts…she loved them all. “Aviva, you’re already twelve years old,” she negotiated, “You’re a little old for stickers, aren’t you? My class is doing a tzedaka auction to raise money for the poor. How about donating the sticker book?”
Aviva smiled, “I don’t think I want to give it up now, but I’ll consider it, okay?”
The next morning, as the girls were leaving for school, Aviva stopped and said “Oh weird! I just remembered this crazy dream I had about the sticker book!”
“What was your dream?” asked Daphna.
“I promised you the sticker book for your auction!” said Aviva.
“Did you say blee-neder in the dream? asked Daphna.
“No” laughed Aviva.
“Awesome!” exclaimed Daphna, “A promise is a promise, even in a dream!”
Aviva laughed, “I doubt that, but nice try, Daphna!”
When they were in the car on the way to school, Daphna brought up the topic again, this time to her mother. “Hey, Mom,” she called from the back seat, “Aviva promised something in her dream last night. Doesn’t she have to keep that promise now?”
Her mom smiled in the rearview mirror at the girls. “Well, Aviva is bat mitzvah now. Her promises have to be kept, right? I just can’t imagine that if she made a promise in a dream that it holds as much weight as a regular promise, but she can certainly ask her Rabbi in halacha class and check”.
“Maybe my funny dream was actually a nightmare?” said a concerned Aviva…
Q: What is the connection between our story and the parasha?
A: The parasha tells us about of dreams that Yosef had. It turned out that these dreams were very important and predicted the future. Do you know the 4 dreams? (1. Sheafs of wheat bowing to Yosef, 2. Stars sun and moon bowing to Yosef, 3. Pharoh’s butler with fly in a wine goblet, 4. Pharoh’s baker with a stone in the bread).
Q: Should we pay attention to our dreams? Does it really matter what we do or say in them?
A: The Gemara tells us that in general we should not pay attention to our dreams. But, for example, if a person had an unusually scary dream that something bad happened to them, or to someone they love, then is is acceptable (but not mandatory) to do something about it – they could choose to fast, to give tzedakah, to study Torah, or to daven (Mishnah Berurah 288:7)
Q: Does the promise that Aviva made in her dream count as a neder?
A: Surprisingly — yes! The Gemara (Shabbos 32b) says that vows are very powerful and because of this, we should be extra careful to keep them, even if made when dreaming. An interesting explanation of this is suggested by the Chasam Sofer (Yoreh De’ah 222), who says that since people often dream about something that think about during the day, a nighttime vow is an indication that a person might have made the promise during the day and forgot about it.
Whatever the explanation, the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De’ah 210:2) rules that a vow — and in particularly a mitzvah vow (see Shut Chaim Be-Yad 52; Shut Mishnah Halachos 5:160) — should be honored. The only way out is by means of “hatarat nidarim” — the ceremony to cancel a vow.
Note that Aviva’s promise, which relates to a donation for the poor, is a mitzvah vow.
Q: What if someone promises in their dream about doing an action that’s prohibited (like destroying someone’s property or eating nonkosher food?)
A: A promise like this is not held to be significant, and the person clearly is not supposed to go ahead and do this sin (Shut Divrei Malkiel, Vol. 2, no. 72).
Back to the story
When Daphna awoke the next morning, she found a nicely-wrapped pink gift on her bed in the morning. She opened it up while holding her breath, and was thrilled to see that Aviva had given her the sticker book. “Hope it makes a lot of money in your auction!” the note said. Daphna was thrilled!
Five minutes later, the alarm clock went off in Aviva’s room. Her eyes immediately noticed on her pillow a little piece of paper with a math equation that said: Aviva – Sticker Album = Mitzvah.
(Written by Josh and Tammy Kruger, in collaboration with Rabbi Yehoshua Pfeffer and based on his 2 part publication by Rabbi Yehoshua Pfeffer entitled ‘A Halachic Appraisal of Dreams’ http://www.dinonline.org/category/parshas-shavua/chumash-bereishis/)