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Another Perspective

Stories and Dreams

I believe dreams come from God. This may sound irrational to many of you; but the belief has deep roots in history, as my book, God and Dreams: Is There A Connection?, demonstrates.

Martin Buber, the 20th century Jewish theologian, retells the following story in one of his books. It is the story of Rabbi Eisik of Cracow. (I use this story in God and Dreams too. I have a lot to say about it there that I won't repeat here.)

The pious rabbi, Eisik of Cracow, had a dream telling him to go to Prague, where, beneath a great bridge leading to the royal castle, he would find a buried treasure. The dream came to Eisik three times so he decided he'd better go to Prague. When he arrived, he found that the bridge was guarded night and day by soldiers. It was not a good idea to dig there. Eisik's prowling near the bridge, however, did catch the attention of the captain of the guard.

The captain asked Eisik in a friendly way if he'd lost something? The rabbi, a simple man, told the captain his dream. The officer burst out laughing: "Really, my poor chap," he said, "you haven't worn out all that shoe leather coming here simply on account of a dream, have you? What rational person would believe in a dream?"

Now it seems that the officer himself had heard a voice in a dream speaking to him. "It went on about Cracow, telling me to go there and look for a great treasure in the house of a rabbi called Eisik, son of Jekel. I was supposed to find this treasure hidden in a dusty recess behind the stove." But the officer put no faith in dream voices; the officer was a rational man.

The rabbi bowed very low, thanked him, and hurried back to Cracow. He searched in the walled-up recess behind his stove and uncovered the treasure that put an end to his poverty.

Another rational man who did not believe in the divine nature of dreams was King William II of England. He was the favorite son of William the Conqueror. This is a true story. On the night of August 1st in the year 1100, William had a dream. It was hot that August in England. In his dream William felt a very cold wind passing through his sides. The dream disturbed him so much that he reported it the next morning to a group of friends with whom he was going hunting. A few of his friends advised him not to go with them that day. But King William replied to them, "They are not good Christians that regard dreams." You can see, King William II was a rational man.

Off on the hunt they went. Late in the day as the sun was setting the King chased a stag he'd wounded. He raised his hand to keep the sun out of his eyes just as a companion's poorly shot arrow missed the stag and hit the King in the side of his chest, killing him. It was too late for the King to reconsider his opinion of dreams.

Another dream I want to share is one of my favorites. I've told it to you before. It is so special it deserves a retelling. It is the dream of a woman who was in the Los Angeles County General Hospital in the early 1950s. She believed in dreams. She had a journal just for them. She discussed her dreams with a special friend. She'd been sleeping when she awoke and shared this dream with an intern who'd just come into her room to check on her. She asked him to tell the dream to her special friend who was on his way to the hospital. Shortly after telling the intern her dream, she died. The intern honored her request. He waited for her friend to arrive. When he did, the doctor told him her dream.

In the dream there was a candle burning in front of a mirror. The candle and flame are reflected in the mirror. A hand appears from above and snuffs out the flame. After a few moments, the candle in the mirror has its flame rekindled.

The image of the rekindled flame on the other side of death comforts and inspires me. I try to be a rational man, but not all of life is rational. Indeed, many of the best parts, like love, grace, creativity, beauty, God reaching out to us in dreams, are not. Because he paid attention to his dreams, Rabbi Eisik may not have been as rational as the captain of the guard; but he was wiser and richer for it.

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