Although it was obvious that Pharaoh’s dreams had something to say about Egypt’s economy, none of Pharaoh’s advisors could explain how the robust cows or grain could exist at the same time as the scrawny ones. At that point, Pharaoh’s cupbearer recalled how Joseph had correctly interpreted his dream in prison, and mentioned this to Pharaoh, who then summoned Joseph. Joseph interpreted the simultaneous existence of robust and scrawny years to mean that grain should be stored away during the plentiful years for use during the famine years.
Hypocrisy is a Dream
וַיֹּאמֶר פַּרְעֹה אֶל יוֹסֵף חֲלוֹם חָלַמְתִּי וּפֹתֵר אֵין אֹתוֹ וגו': (בראשית מא:טו)
Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream, but there is no one who can interpret it.” Genesis 41:15

The dreams of Joseph and Pharaoh led to the Jewish people’s exile in Egypt. Exile was caused by dreams because exile itself is like a dream. In dreams, conflicting and contradictory situations can coexist. Similarly, our behavior in exile seems hypocritical: selflessness and selfishness coexist almost simultaneously.

Living this spiritually inconsistent life is potentially frustrating. We may think that we are being dishonest with ourselves. Considering all our faults, we may feel that our connection to G‑d is not real, that our efforts to advance spiritually are ultimately futile.

The connection between exile and dreams teaches us that although our actions may seem hypocritical at times, we should not become disheartened. We must strive to live as consistently as possible, not giving up because of momentary lapses. The effects of misdeeds last only until we repair their damage through repentance. The effects of our good deeds, in contrast, last forever.1