After Sunday School yesterday, I decided it would be interesting to do a series of posts on Jewish interpretations of Isaiah 52. Comments and discussion are most welcome! Walker Wright has already posted on both the Dead Sea Scrolls and LDS interpretations of the same chapter, so I'm going to refer people there rather than going over it again. Hopefully he'll even delurk a bit. http://walkstar.blog...adi-qumran.html
The first interpretation I'll discuss is less an interpretation than it is a use of Isa. 52:7. In the Babylonian Talmud there is a long list of various dream symbols and their range of meanings. A word on the psychology of dreams might be helpful. Carl Jung wrote that dream symbols, subliminal aspects of our daily lives, are "the almost invisible roots of our conscious thoughts." As a result, they play a crucial role in the interpretation of dreams. "That is why commonplace objects or ideas can assume such powerful psychic significance in a dream that we may awake seriously disturbed, in spite of having dreamed of nothing worse than a locked room or a missed train." Jung goes on to say that the reason dream symbols are so vivid is due to the dissimilarity between them and our conscious thoughts in which we "restrain ourselves within the limits of rational statements."
Granted, my dream where I approached someone at night and began running past them as soon as I felt something wrong, too late though as a knife flashed in the dark, that dream disturbed me more than I ever was by any door, but Jung does have a point. Things we see in dreams can stand for something deeper. That being said, Trachtenberg, in his classic study of Jewish "magic," pointed out a different approach to dreams. I might as well mention that this approach is still favoured by many people around the world. Not everyone puts stock in Western psychological paradigms.
There were many different approaches to dreams and their sources. Whether they be 1/60th of prophecy, or revelations to the soul in its nightly journey, dreams (though not all) were considered another form of interraction between this world and those beyond it, conveying information impacting the future.
Using much the same idea behind the Western scientific process, events were observed and the cause deduced from the effect. It seemed to work in many cases.
Nothing, of course, is infallible. Very few people rely solely upon Plan A, without also having Plans B, C, and so on. Jewish dream interpreters had various methods in place for when the dream couldn't be avoided.
Here, then, is the talmudic passage.
This use of the Bible to ensure a favourable outcome to the future, not to mention that it also controls the negative outcome, underscores both the centrality and the power of the Bible in early Judaism. Howard Schwarz's Tree of Souls expands on those themes. The Torah not only was the means for creating the world, but sustains its very existence.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this method of assigning biblical verses to symbols in order to affect a dream's outcome doesn't appear to be a part of Christian dream-lore. At least, I was unable to find anything similar.
The next post will be more "prophetic," that is, a midrash about Elijah's role as forerunner to the Messiah. Future posts will be on medieval and later biblical commentaries. When I say "later" I mean up to the 19th century, though if I find an interesting 20th century view I'll include it. Also, if anyone has a reference they would like to discuss, feel free to let me know. Don't be shy!
Carl G. Jung, "Man and His Symbols," p. 43.
Joshua Trachtenberg, "Jewish Magic and Superstition," p. 230.
Ibid, p. 244.
Ibid, p. 245.
Babylonian Talmud, t. Berachot 56b. Further examples of the positive verses are found on p. 245 of Trachtenberg. " If one dreams of a well, he should say, "And there Isaac's servants digged a well" (Gen. 26:25); of a river, "Behold I will extend peace to her like a river" (Is. 66:12); of a bird, "As birds flying so will the Lord of hosts protect Jerusalem" (Is. 31:5); of a dog, "Against any of the children of Israel shall not a dog whet his tongue" (Ex. 11:7); of a mountain, "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger of good tidings" (Is. 52:7); of a shofar, "In that day a great shofar shall be blown" (Is. 27:13); of a bullock, "His firstling bullock, majesty is his" (Deut. 33:17); of a lion, "The lion hath roared, who will not fear?" (Amos 3:8 ); of shaving, "Joseph shaved himself and changed his raiment and came in unto Pharaoh" (Gen. 41:14); and so on. "
Howard Schwartz, "Tree of Souls," p. 249.
Edited by volgadon, 14 May 2012 - 09:29 PM.