Ever since the publication
in 1900 of Sigmund Freud's "The Interpretation of Dreams," twentieth-century
thinkers have wrestled with the notion that dreams have meanings beyond
themselves. Interestingly, the same can be said for the Hebrew word for
scholars believe that the verb
(halam), "to dream," and the verb
(halam), "to be in good health," are related. Moreover, they
hold, both of these words are connected to
(helmon), the yolk of an egg, and to
(holam), the vowel (o).
A skeptic may well ask, "How so?" It goes something like this: The
lamed, mem) originally meant, "to be soft, "moist,"
"viscous." One might say that one is healthy because one "has
good humors" and that the verb
(halam) means "to gather humors," that is, to sleep well, therefore
to dream. And, maintaining the liquid imagery associated with the term, a highly
authoritative Biblical dictionary says that the Hebrew word for dreaming can
also mean "to experience an emission of seminal fluid." Talk about
And what does this have to do with the yellow of an egg or a vowel? According
to a medieval book of Hebrew roots, the yolk is called
(helmon) because, cholesterol notwithstanding, it is the healthful (i.e.,
nutritious) part of the egg. And the
(holam)? When you write a
(holam), you are creating what the grammarians call a plene (i.e., a
full) reading. Says grammarian Abraham Ibn Ezra: Make the sound "O"
and then look at your lips; they make a strong, full circle.
appears from this discussion that dreaming is a good thing, no? Not necessarily.
As used in the Bible, the word
(halom), when it means "dream," may be good, bad, or
indifferent. Just ask Joseph's brothers, who derisively referred to their
(ba'al ha-holomot ha-lazeh), "that damned dream-master."
Or ask Pharaoh's baker, who lost his head to a dream. On the other hand,
if you were to ask Joseph or Daniel, you would be told there is much profit
to be gained from being an accurate interpreter of the dreams of kings.
The Rabbis were similarly divided about the beneficence of dreams. The
Talmud relates that a
(halom shel shaharit), morning-dream, is likely to be true. If
the dream portends evil tidings, there is a way to nullify it: One can
take on oneself--even on Shabbat, when it is normally forbidden to fast--a
(ta'anit halom), dream-fast. If you are not sure whether a dream
is bad or good, you may recite the Ribbono Shel Olam meditation of the
Priestly Blessing, in which you aver,
(ani shelakh ve- halomotai shelakh), "I am yours and my dreams
In modern Israel, the real estate section of the newspaper might advertise
(dirat halom), a dream apartment. Or, if you are not well-grounded
in reality, you may be charged with having
(halomot be-aspamyah), "dreams in Spain." Somebody who
crosses the street without looking might be said to be having
(halomot be-hakitz), daydreams.
And when you tuck
the children into bed at night, you always wish them
(halomot paz), literally "golden dreams."
our discussion by mentioning another ground-breaking book written during our
century, whose title echoes that of Freud's: Eliezer Ben Yehuda's
(ha- halom ve-shivro), "The Dream and Its Interpretation."
When you hear little children
speaking Hebrew on the streets of Israel, you realize that neither Ben Yehuda's
dream nor its meaning has been buried in the collective subconscious. It is
right out there on the surface (manifest destiny and all), for all to see and
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