In this weeks Parsha (Vayeishev), we learn about how Yosef had his two [prophetic] dreams. We find that in each case, Yosef told his brothers about his dreams:

And he said to them, "Listen now to this dream, which I have dreamed:

(in 37:6) and again:

And he again dreamed another dream, and he related it to his brothers

(in 37:9)

My question is, why did Yosef tell over the dreams to his brothers? What did he foresee it as accomplishing? If anything it only made them even more jealous!

(especially after the first repetition's results - "And they continued further to hate him on account of his dreams and on account of his words" - became known)

  • And not only two dreams (according to the second explanation of the Daas Z'kenim to pasuk 8)!
    – msh210
    Dec 11, 2011 at 5:15
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    This is a great question that has bothered me for a while. Many of the commentaries deal with it in different ways, but to me, all the answers make Yosef come out looking either oblivious or naive.
    – jake
    Dec 11, 2011 at 5:36

5 Answers 5


The Lubavitcher Rebbe zt"l has a different take on it. In his talk of Shabbos Parshas Vayeishev 5734 (Sichos Kodesh 5734 1:201-202), he explains that Yosef told over these dreams precisely because he hoped to use them to defuse his brothers' jealousy toward him.

Previous dreams recorded in the Torah were basically meant to be taken at face value. For example, Yaakov's dream of the angels going up and down the ladder (Gen. 28:12) meant (among other things) just that: as Rashi says there, the angels who had accompanied him in Eretz Yisrael were returning Above, and a new cohort of angels was coming down. Later, too, when Yaakov dreamt about the sheep mating (ibid. 31:12), it presaged how he would breed his flocks and get more of the types of animals to which he was entitled based on his deal with Lavan.

So here: Yosef knew full well that his brothers are jealous of the preferential treatment he's getting, and indeed that "they couldn't speak peaceably to him" (ibid. 37:4). So when he dreamt about their sheaves bowing to his, he immediately told it to them, hoping that they'd take it in its most literal sense: the next time they'd harvest their crops, his would be of better quality and would fetch a higher price. "If my advantage over you is nothing more than such a trifle," he was implying, "then you have nothing to be jealous about." However, this plan backfired: in their prejudice against him they assumed that there's more here than meets the eye, and that such a dream really means that Yosef thinks he will rule over them.

So he tried again with his next dream. In it the stars bow to him, which might be understood to mean that the celestial bodies associated with their welfare (their mazalos) will be doing so, but not the brothers themselves. It might even be taken to mean that he, Yosef, is the only one without a good mazal of his own, and he needs theirs to assist him ("bow to him" in service) - which would mean that, on the contrary, they've got an advantage over him. When this time they ignored him, Yosef repeated the dream to Yaakov, hoping that he at least, free of such prejudices, would come up with the above seemingly correct explanation; but Yaakov too understood it in a non-literal sense like the brothers had done with the previous one.


The Rosh on the Torah (Bereshit 37:5) says that the dreams were a prophecy. And a prophet is obligated to tell over his prophecy. If not, he is liable to die by the hands of Heaven (See Rambam Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah 9:3).

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    A prophet is only obligated to tell over his prophecy if God commands him to do so. There is such a thing as private prophecies.
    – jake
    Dec 11, 2011 at 19:55
  • @jake: And this commentary was saying that this was the case here. (I have to see if I can find it). Otherwise, why antagonize his brothers?
    – Menachem
    Dec 12, 2011 at 1:13
  • @Menachem did you find it, as I don't see why (from what's recorded in the Chumash) it would be public Nov 21, 2013 at 23:31
  • @ShmuelBrin: no. It might have been one of Rabbi Paltiel's parsha shiurim: insidechassidus.org/winter/201-parshas-vayeshev/…
    – Menachem
    Nov 21, 2013 at 23:42

Rabbi Shlomo Kluger explains that the gemara in Berachos teaches that the joy which is experienced as a result of having a good dream can suffice to act as its fulfilment, so that it will no longer actually come to pass. This is why Yosef related the dream to his brothers even though he knew that they would hate him for it, because if he did not tell them his joy would cause the dream not to come to pass. But by telling them the dream it would cause him distress, and so it would certainly come true.

The full text can be found here.


Will have to look for a source for this, but:

The Gemara (Berachos 55a) states that "a dream that has not been interpreted is like a letter that was not opened" (i.e., nothing is going to come from it). Further, it also states (ibid. 55b and 56a) that "all dreams follow the mouth" - i.e., that however a dream is interpreted, that is what it symbolizes, and (if it's the type of dream that portends future events rather than just being nonsense) what will indeed happen as a result. (This latter point is indeed derived from a later part of the story of Yosef - the dreams of the chief butler and baker.)

Yosef felt that these dreams really do foretell the future, and he wanted this to be able to happen. When he told them over to his family, his brothers (in v. 8, about the first dream) and his father (in v. 10, about the second) indeed reacted by saying what they understood them to mean - i.e., they interpreted them! Now he could look forward to these events actually happening.

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    (1) If Yosef knew that his brother's hated him, why tell his dream specifically to them? Did he not know that they would hate him more as a result? It wasn't as if he couldn't figure out how they would interpret the dream. (2) Even still, after he saw that they hated him more after the first dream telling, why go again to his brothers to tell them the second one, after the first time clearly backfired?
    – jake
    Dec 11, 2011 at 22:05
  • (3) His brothers and father reacted to his dreams by saying "Is it possible that this is what your dream means?" In other words, your dream cannot possibly mean X (e.g. that you will rule over us). So they weren't giving his dream an interpretation, but rather giving a scenario thet they felt was not possibly the interpretation of the dream.
    – jake
    Dec 11, 2011 at 22:05
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    @jake: (1) OK, but who else was he going to tell it to? He may not have realized that they hate him so much, or even if he did, he may have thought that it doesn't really matter, so long as the dreams get interpreted. (2) We see that the 2nd time, when he told it to them and they didn't respond, he told it again to Yaakov as well, in hopes that he'd say something - which he did. (3): true that in both cases they reacted incredulously, but note that they never actually said, "You shall not rule" or "We shall not bow to you" - in other words, they actually did leave those possibilities open.
    – Alex
    Dec 11, 2011 at 22:58
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    (3) Ok, they may have left the possibility open for the dreams to be interpreted as such, but they certainly did not interpret them like that. If anything, they interpreted the dreams not like that, since they responded incredulously.
    – jake
    Dec 11, 2011 at 23:11
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    Alex, see the Ohr HaChaim 37:6, who says something very similar to what you're saying: hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=49294&pgnum=108
    – Menachem
    Dec 12, 2011 at 1:25

Eliyahu Kitov in his Sefer HaParshiot writes the following:

לא היה שבטי י-ה ראויים לאותו מעשה... אלא שיוסף גרם ומדעת גרם. בעל כרחם העמידם שונאים עליו. אכן עצת ה' זאת. כיון שזכה יוסף והיתה מעלתו כמעלת כל אחיו-אמר יוסף, הואיל ושקול אני כנגד כל אחי ואף אבא מחשבני כך- יבוא עלי כל מה שנגזור לבוא על בית אבא. גלות, שעבוד, עינוי, שבי וביזה הכל עלי ובי בלבד ויחשב לפני הבורא כאילו נתקיימה הגזרה בכל אחי, הרי אני שקול ככולם. אני במקומם והם ניצולים

It's not possible that the brothers, great as they were, would do such a terrible thing out of their own free will. Rather, they were forced and manipulated into the sale by Yosef himself. Yosef believed that he was the equal of all his brothers, and he knew that there was a Divine decree of exile, servitude and oppression. He believed, that as the equal of all his brothers, he could accept the decree upon himself, and his brothers would be exempt from it. Thus, he purposely behaved towards them in a manner that would arouse their jealousy and hatred.

(For a similar but yet opposite understanding, see the Chizkuni.)

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