What is a dream? The vast majority of dreams are simply the brain’s way of understanding all the different thoughts and activities of the day. Other dreams, however, are more significant.

Throughout the Bible, dreams are often the vehicle for prophecy. Today, unfortunately, we are no longer the beneficiaries of outright prophecy. Dreams, however, can still have significance – but only if we have a way of understanding them.

The most important aspect of dream interpretation is that the interpretation should actually be based on the dream. This was the significance of Joseph’s different interpretations of the dreams of the butler and the baker (Genesis 40). The two dreams are strangely similar, and yet Joseph sees life in one (the butler) and death in the other (the baker).

The Talmud (Berachot 55a-56a) warns us that all dreams follow the interpreter’s interpretation. For this reason, Rabbi Chisda said: “A dream that is not interpreted is like a letter that is not read.” The interpretation of the dream gives it power. Thus Rabbi Chisda recommended that it is better not to delve into a dream’s meaning.

Nevertheless, the dream should still affect one’s actions. A bad dream should lead to teshuva (repentance) and the pleasure of a good dream is a reward in and of itself.