When Yaakov hears the dreams of Yosef, he responds that it just can’t be, for Rachel died and can’t bow down. Chazal tell us that there is a aspect of impreciseness in all dreams . This is what Yakov pointed out ,though he knew that it could be referring to Bilha who raised Yosef like a mother.
Many times, people have clear signals from Heaven telling them something. Yet, these people find ways to interpret the message in a totally incorrect way. Take Chanukah as an example: Chazal decided that in order to delineate that winning the war was actually a miracle, they ruled that we needed a day to celebrate the victory of the war. This was aside from the miracle of the candles burning for an extra 7 days. It is a bit strange that a handful of Jews overcame hundreds of thousands of Greek soldiers, and people explain it as just that the Jews were physically stronger than the Greeks. Yet as nature has it, people read into things that which they would like to take out of them. Therefore, Chazal had to make it clear that winning the war was a miracle.
Unfortunately, people often see things only the way they want. There is a joke that is told about a man driving home from work and hears on the radio traffic report that there is one guy driving down the highway the wrong way. His wife contacts him on the phone to warn him, and he responds “One guy? Why they are ALL driving the wrong way!”
The Chida tells us that when Yaakov heard the dreams, he validated them. Yet at the same time he allowed his children to interpret that validation as not being true, for Yaakov said, “It cannot be that is a true dream, for Rochel died.” At the same time, he said “In dreams, part of the dream is not true.” His sons should have picked up on that and thought that maybe the part of relating to Rochel is not true, but the rest of the dream is! However, one will see or hear that which one chooses.
How does one overcome this natural propensity to see or hear that which one desires? As a Rabbi, I am very sensitive to the questions which are being asked of me as to what is really being asked. Sometimes the question is “MAY I eat this?” sometimes it is “CAN I eat this?” and sometimes it is “SHOULD I eat this?”. Each one of these questions places the questioner in a different category. Sometimes the agenda is to just do what Hashem wants, and sometimes it is “Will Hashem get in the way of what I want to do because of some prohibition?” Sometimes they mean is there a way to work around the principles the Torah has set forth – or “can we find a heter?” As a Rabbi, I feel my job is not only to answer the question, but also to put the person on the correct page.
There is a question asked by the Beis Haleivi about the miracle of Chanukah: Why was it necessary to have a miracle at all? There is a halacha that when the kehilla needs to perform a mitzvah, it is permissible to use something in an impure state, and therefore we didn’t have to have tahor oil? The Beis Laleivi answers that Klal Yisrael was looking to do things the “right” way. Though the halachic principle would allow them to use impure oil, they had a desire to express their devotion to Hashem and to perform the mitzvah without any special dispensation. The miracle of Chanukah revolves around the fact that Hashem understood that this was their wish and responded by doing a miracle rather than using the dispensation. Sometimes I feel that there are people who pray for a miracle to find a leniency. The way we know if the answers we hear are genuine is if our agenda is pure.
As we kindle our Chanukah lights this year, we should strengthen our resolve to have our agenda be with the purest of intent.