In the Torah portions around this time of the year we read quite a bit about dreams. Yaakov dreamt of a ladder which stood on the ground and reached heaven. Yosef dreamt of the moon and the stars bowing to him. Pharaoh dreamt of fat and lean cows, and while incarcerated, the butler and baker dreamt of their future.

In addition to all these dreams of yesteryear, we now stand under the Chuppah with two more dreamers — you, our dear Chatan and Kallah. During your courting period you shared with each other dreams for your future life together. And, undoubtedly, tonight you are praying for the fulfillment and realization of your dreams and aspirations.

To dream is perfectly normal. But the question is why do some dreamers realize their goals while others fail?

The key to being a successful dreamer may be found by carefully analyzing the story of the butler and baker.

The Torah tells us that while Yosef was in prison, two other prisoners were also with him — the baker and butler of Pharaoh the King of Egypt. They were imprisoned because of sins committed against Pharaoh. One night, these two men each had a dream. Each one, of course, dreamed about his own line of business. The butler dreamed about wine, and the baker dreamed about baked goods. In the morning, when Joseph came into the prison cell, he saw that something was troubling them. After he inquired, they related that they dreamt but they did not know how to decipher their dreams. Yosef asked them to tell him their dreams and he would see if he could help them.

First the butler spoke. “In my dream I saw a grapevine. On the grapevine were three branches with many clusters of grapes. I dreamed that Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand. I took the grapes and squeezed them into the cup. Then I put the cup of wine in Pharaoh’s palm.” Yosef interpreted the dream as follows: “The three branches are three days. After three days Pharaoh will reinstate you to your position. Once again, you will place Pharaoh’s cup in his hand.”

When the baker heard the wonderful interpretation of the butler’s dream, he decided to tell his own dream to Yosef. He related that he had seen three baskets upon his head. In the upper basket were all kinds of baked goods and birds ate out of the basket. When Yosef heard this dream he told him that “the three baskets are symbolic of three days. In three days Pharaoh will hang you and birds will eat your flesh.”

Isn’t it amazing that two people had similar dreams, each dreaming about his occupation, and yet Yosef interpreted one dream in a completely opposite way from the other. How is this possible? Why did he choose to decipher one to mean life and the other to mean death?

If you will look closely at the story you will see there was a marked difference between the two dreams. The butler dreamed that he took the grapes and squeezed them into Pharaoh’s cup, and he placed the cup on Pharaoh’s palm. This is a dream that is characterized by action. A dream replete with action is a dream that spells life. However, in the baker’s dream there wasn’t any activity. He did not dream about baking the cakes or placing the baskets on his head, nor did he do anything to chase the birds away. A dream which is not backed up by action spells death and is doomed to failure.

The message that comes forth from this week’s Torah portion is a very simple and pertinent one. There are many people who dream. One dreams he would like to be a millionaire, another dreams of being a successful lawyer or doctor, and a young yeshiva boy dreams of being a great Talmid Chacham — Torah scholar — etc. But, from all these dreams come nothing unless the one who dreamt of riches gets involved in a business and works hard. The one who dreamt of being a lawyer or doctor goes on to law or medical school and is immersed in his studies, and the one who dreamt of being a Talmid Chacham dedicates himself to diligent and assiduous Toray study.

A Chatan and Kallah dream of building an ideal Jewish home. Their hope is to raise a family which will be a source of Yiddish and Chassidish nachas — O what beautiful dreams! However, you cannot expect something to come from nothing. The realization of your dreams requires concerted and dedicated effort by the two of you.


My dear Chatan and Kallah, all your relatives and friends, regardless of whether they are present tonight, extend to you their best wishes, blessings, congratulations and felicitations. Everyone says it in their own style, but the common denominator is that from the bottom of their hearts they all want your married life to be blessed with hatzlachah — success.

The question, however, is what does hatzlachah mean? What precisely is a successful married life, and how is it attained?

In this week’s parshah we are introduced to Yosef as a resident of Egypt. In the first verse we are told that Yosef was brought down to Egypt and was brought to Potiphar. Without giving any further details the succeeding verse states “Hashem was with Yosef and he was ish matzliach — a successful man” (39:1-2).

The word “matzliach” is used three times with reference to Yosef in this chapter. This is rather unusual, for the word “matzliach” is rarely found in the Torah and is never applied with such frequency to any other Biblical figure.

In our age success is usually and mistakenly associated with material achievements, with power, with glamour, or with popularity. In this chapter we see Yosef with neither. In fact, we know him only as a slave and as an incarcerated convicted felon. No person, mindful of Yosef’s circumstances, would consider him to be particularly successful. What is the hatzlachah that the Torah is speaking of?

The answer to this perplexing question lies in the words that precede his being termed an “ish matzliach” — “a successful man.” The opening words “Vayehi Hashem et Yosef” — “and Hashem was with Yosef” — not only tell us the fact that G‑d was with Yosef and that He helped him and blessed him, but also tell us that the reason for his success was that “G‑d was with Yosef” — Yosef never gave up on G‑d; never did he lose his faith in Hashem.

Yosef, in his early life, faced three critical tests. They represent the three main problems and the crises experienced by all human beings. First, he was persecuted by his own brothers, and at the tender age of seventeen, he was torn away from his family and thrown into a strange environment. The love and care of a devoted father was now replaced by the harsh mastery of a slave-owner. It was obviously a period of gloom and darkness in his young life. There are two possibilities as to how one may cope at such a moment. One may be filled with despair, sigh, weep, and give up hope. Or one determines to do the best under these circumstances and face the future with hope and faith.

Yosef was indeed fortunate, for in his hour of misfortune and trouble he, too, was imbued with faith in G‑d — and because “Hashem was with Yosef,” he never lost hope. He applied himself to his work, and he did his best under difficult circumstances; he was therefore, indeed, an “ish matzliach” — “a successful man.”

The second crisis provided Yosef with a severe moral test. He had to face the powerful allurements of the mistress of the house and fight against temptation and evil. It was not an easy matter, but again Yosef succeeded, for at the height of this crisis, he was not alone. He was conscious of his moral responsibilities, of his presence before the A-lmighty, and of his father’s teachings. In a forceful tone he replied, “How then can I perpetrate this great evil and I will have sinned against Hashem” (39:19). He succeeded! Once again he was “ish matzliach” — “a successful man.”

The third and perhaps the supreme crisis of his life came when he faced the powerful Pharaoh and brilliantly interpreted his dream. From the bottom of a dark pit he had now risen to the heights of fame and success. He was now about to attain prominence in Egypt. All admired his wisdom and ingenuity. It was so easy, so tempting to become vain and arrogant, and to be impressed by his own wisdom and power, and think “My strength has achieved all this for me” (Devarim 8:17). Yosef in true humility, however, declared at the outset, “That is beyond me; it is G‑d Who will respond with Pharaoh’s welfare” (41:16).

Once again Yosef had succeeded. Once again he was “ish matzliach” — “a successful man.” He did not permit the glitter of the moment to corrupt and demoralize his life.

These are the typical crises man faces in life. All of us, at one time or another, fight despair, battle our conscience, or seek to retain our humility in the face of success. Throughout the vicissitudes of life we must remember that we are not alone, that man must give a reckoning for all his deeds, and that in spite of all our achievements our lives are frail and in G‑d’s hands. Then we, too, like Yosef, will have succeeded, and we will be termed “matzliach” — successful.

Together with all your well wishers, I too bless you my dear Chatan and Kallah to have hatzlachah — a successful marriage. May you be blessed with affluence, a magnificent home, a beautiful family, and prominence in your community. But, above all, may you be blessed with the good sense to be in control of all your blessings and use them as a means to enhance your dedication to A-lmighty G‑d and His holy Torah. Throughout your life always emulate the great Yosef Hatzaddik in all situations. Give preeminence to G‑d and recognize that your hatzalchah — success — is contingent on His will and blessing.

(הרב אברהם שי' קעלמאן עם הוספות)