Bad Dreams

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Dear Rabbi

During Pesach, I had a troubling dream, recalling a real-life tragedy from earlier this year, which left me very shaken. On Yom Tov, during Birkat Kohanim I said the supplication regarding dreams (ArtScroll Siddur p. 696). However the dream and its associations still worry me. I have heard that there is such a thing as fasting to counteract or nullify the implications of a worrying dream. Even though a few weeks have passed, should I still fast?

Thank you Steven

Thank you for your interesting question.

The occasion of Birkat Kohanim is indeed propitious to neutralise a troubling dream, so in that sense the timing was in your favour. On the other hand, we do not favour fasting on Yom Tov, including Hol ha-Mo’ed. Although this is technically permitted in the case of an ominous dream, one may have to fast an additional day, as penance for fasting on Yom Tov, since it is a day when s/he should have been celebrating, not fasting. In any case, fasting to counteract a dream is discretional, not required. In other words, one who feels the need to fast as a result of a dream may do so (or may even be encouraged to do so)—but that is only if s/he “feels the need”, ie is anxious about the implications of the dream.

What you may want to do if you are indeed still troubled by the dream is Hatavat Halom, Amelioration of a Dream. This can be found in unabridged siddurim, and is based on this Talmudic passage (Berakhot 55a):

Rabbi Pedat said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan, "One who saw a dream and is depressed about it should 'make it better' in front of three people – providing they are sympathetic to him." 

That is, tell a close friend that you are distraught by a bad dream and ask him together with two others to declare "You have seen a good dream" – three times. Some recommend telling the dream to a rabbi, and ask him for a positive interpretation of the dream. The underlying principle here is that the implications (including predictive and prophetic qualities) of a dream follow its interpretation.

Come to think of it, I wonder if this exchange already constitutes a partial “amelioration” unto itself. Pleasant dreams!


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Questions and Answers

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Dear Rabbi Simon,
I hope you fasted well yesterday.
Thank you for the insights into the Kinnot, making them easier to understand.
In the afternoon, I was listening to a shiur on Eichah on Torahanytime.  As an aside, the speaker mentioned that the 1st perek of Eichah is the source for the order of the alef bet as we know it.  Other chapters also follow the alef bet chronology but with ayin en peh interchanged.
He quoted Rabbi Shimon Schwab as his source.
Although he did not elaborate on this, surely Sefer Tehillim predates Megillat Eichah by centuries.  Several psalms are written in the alef bet order (e.g.
psalm 119).
Can you please clarify?
Thank you & best wishes.
PhilippeHi Philippe
TY for your sophisticated Q.
I have also heard that the question of the sequence of samekh and 'ayin is subject to dispute. It seems that there are indications that in Paleo-Hebrew the order is reversed from what we know. It is alleged that chapters 2, 3 and 4 of Eichah (chapter 5 is not alphabetical) reflect the original order. Of course, as you say, ch 1 conforms to the order with which we are family.
You are right that Tehillim predates Eichah, however a critic can claim that the order was redacted to bring it in line with the accepted/preferred sequence. This is particularly true for ch. 119, where each of the 8 vv per letter are their own group, and each set of 8 vv. can easily be repositioned. The question is in Ps. 34 or 145, if the internal logic of the passage sheds light on the correct sequence. In Ps. 34, some claim that the v. starting with the letter peh makes more sense to follow the verse starting with samekh (due to the common appearance of the word ra'). I am not convinced that this argument is compelling.
I will stick with the mesorah, that 'ayin belongs before peh. Best to look before speaking.
Rabbi Rashi Simon
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