The brothers and Joseph finally meet each other head-on, without pretense and subterfuge. When Joseph reveals himself to the brothers, the veil of secrecy, role-playing, distrust, and enmity is ripped away. The dreams that apparently were the cause of this gripping family drama now reappear in their stark and simple meaning.
The sheaves of grain are the brothers and the constellation of stars in heaven are to be taken literally as the brothers bowing down to Joseph. It is noteworthy that the brothers never asked why Joseph is entitled to such respect and discipline from them. They apparently never search out the merit or qualities that have made Joseph their ruler.
There are many commentators who believe that Joseph never recounted to them the story of his life with Potiphar and how he had risen to such glory and power. For the brothers, as perhaps for Joseph himself, it was sufficient that the dreams had meaning and had come true. All the rest of the story became almost incidental and unimportant. It was the dreams that were the central issue, and when proven to be accurate and effective, that was all that really mattered.
No longer would the brothers, or their descendants, mock dreams, or dreamers. In effect, they now realize that somehow the dreamers were more practical than the pragmatic people of the world. Certainly, as part of Jewish life was to be concerned, it would only survive and prosper based on dreams and not based on data.
When Joseph reveals himself to his brothers, they are naturally shocked by the turn of events. Until now, they had always believed that they were within their rights, and that the actions that they had taken against Joseph were not only justified, but necessary. They saw him as a mortal threat to their very survival and to the necessary nation-building process that would create the Jewish people.
Then, in a moment, this entire understanding and assessment of the situation with Joseph was turned on its head. This occurred because they had refused to give credit or to display confidence in the dreams that Joseph had related to them. It is, thus, superfluous to state that the Jewish people have survived only based on dreams.
The return of our people to the land of Israel in our time is perhaps the greatest of dreams. We are taught in the book of Psalms that the return to Zion must be viewed as a dream, for based on pragmatism alone it could never have happened. The same thing is true regarding the revival of Torah in Jewish society in our time. Only dreamers could imagine, that at some level, the long-standing tides of ignorance and hostility towards Judaism and Jewish values could be checked. The great Ponovizher Rav summed up the situation succinctly when he told me: “I sleep little, but I dream all the time.”
Shabbat shalom, 5781
Rabbi Berel Wein