(Ravi Joshi/Tablet Magazine)

Rodger Kamenetz, author of Nextbook Press’s Burnt Books: Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav and Franz Kafka, is also a dream therapist. This week, between the two Torah portions in which Joseph interprets dreams, Kamenetz responds to questions about dreams submitted by Tablet Magazine readers.

First, let me say that I am not Jewish. I had heard the word “Shekhinah” [meaning the presence of God] before, in a Christian Bible study.

I dreamt that a couple brought me upstairs into an apartment. I had never been there before. There was a little bit of a hallway.

Facing into the apartment, there was a study down the hall, over to the left. Not really a separate room—more like an alcove with bay windows. There were bookshelves with lots of books. Opposite the bookshelves, there was a computer table and some chairs. And there were Hasidim sitting by the computer terminal. I could see them—their black suits and hats and white shirts. They were sitting on wooden chairs like the ones that used to be next to the teacher’s desk in grade school. I was told they were waiting for the Shekhinah Glory. And I heard “[something] HaShem.” I was thinking, “Keepers of the Name” or “Guardians of the Name”? I don’t know … .

The PC monitor was on and a very dark round spot filled most of the screen. All of a sudden, it got lighter and lighter and then a bright light emanated from the screen and bathed the room with this brightness and warmth. And then it would fade. The men who were taking turns keeping by the PC had no visible reaction. I don’t know how long this had been happening (years? days?).

I couldn’t wait to sit in front of the PC on this little metal folding chair. The thought that this light was there filled me with joy and a sense of relief.

Considering the state of the world I am not surprised I am looking for consolation, but I don’t know why the dream took this form.


Don’t worry about that. It’s a great dream. It is very clear in Genesis, our primordial dream book in the West, that dreams come from God, give us warnings, and show us other worlds. These are the gifts of the dream. (See my book The History of Last Night’s Dream for explication of these ideas.) So here you, Georgianna, have a dream in which you see Hasidim or observant Jews of some kind, gathered around a PC, and guarding the light.

The term “awesome” comes to mind, in its original sense. And sometimes in life we experience the awesome at peak moments (birth of a child, on a hike through the woods, in love). But even more so in our dreams. It’s what Jacob feels when he dreams of the ladder: “How awesome was this place, and I didn’t know it.” Dreams give us the awesome in a very pure form.

Why Hasidim, since, as you say, you are not Jewish? The answer in part is: You are not Jewish. For you, the Jew is the “other,” therefore the archetypes appear as Hasidim. (A Jew might dream of Catholic priests or the Dalai Lama.) The PC is a nice touch: The personal computer from which the light emerges. So unexpected. But it’s personal, it’s your personal revelation.

The Hasidim are actually there for you; the experience of the light is for you, not them. They don’t react so much because they are of this realm already. They are used to it, it’s like a “PC” to them. But to you it’s new. It’s a holy light and the key point is your feeling of joy and a sense of relief.

There is a “door” in the dream, which is at the end. You express the desire to go closer to the screen. What held you back? Whatever it is, fear or shame, face it … and get closer to the light. The Hasidim are able to be close because they are sitting in grade school desks. They are willing to be students again. In life we may be doctors, lawyers, or Indian chiefs, but with this light we are in grade school again. And that’s a great position from which to see the light.

You may be looking for consolation. But in another sense, consolation is looking for you—and in this dream it found you. Mazel tov. Replay the image of the light coming out of the PC in your mind and feel the joy and relief, and then try coming closer to the screen. Face whatever resistance you feel there. That will deepen your experience.

Burnt Books: Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav and Franz Kafka [Nextbook Press]
Earlier: The Dream Doctor Is In