There is only one person in all of the five Books of Moses that the Torah refers to as being “successful,” and that person is Joseph. Joseph's extraordinary gift was his ability to rise to the top of any situation he was placed in. When his brothers sold him into slavery, he became the leader of his master’s home; when he was thrown into prison, he became the administrator of the prison; and finally, he rose to become the acting leader of Egypt, the superpower of the ancient world.

What was the secret to his success? How did he remain focused, optimistic and upbeat despite all the difficulties that he had to endure?

Joseph brothers would mock him by referring to him as “the dreamer.” Indeed, to understand Joseph, his story and his success, we must understand the unique nature of his dreams.

In the beginning of this week’s Torah portion, we read about the two dreams Joseph dreamed, both with the same theme, that Joseph was destined to be the leader over his brothers, as the Torah relates:

And Joseph dreamed a dream and told his brothers, and they continued to hate him.

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

Behold, we were binding sheaves in the midst of the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright, and behold, your sheaves encircled [it] and prostrated themselves to my sheaf."...

And he again dreamed another dream, and he related it to his brothers, and he said, "Behold, I have dreamed another dream, and behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were prostrating themselves to me."1

Joseph first dreamed about the earthly, the grain in the field, and then continued to dream about the heavens, the celestial bodies, the sun, the moon and the stars.

He understood that the dreams were conveying that the material and the spiritual are not two separate entities, but rather two layers of the same reality. Joseph understood that if he would indeed become a leader in the physical sense, if his brothers’ “wheat” would bow to his “wheat,” if he would be the leader who would provide them with bread, that would only be the outer layer of the story. The deeper layer, the spiritual counterpart, was found in the second dream: Joseph had to bestow upon his brothers not just material bounty but also spiritual insight. While his brothers thought they had to retreat from society and become shepherds in order to maintain a connection to holiness, he had to share with them his unique ability to remain loyal to sanctity and holiness, even while being involved in the heart of the Egyptian economy and culture.

Joseph’s double dream taught him that one could simultaneously be in a field with the grain, and in heaven with the stars. That one can exist on two planes at the same time. That within every earthly scenario, one must seek the inner layer, the spark of heaven, that is the purpose of the experience.

Thus, Joseph’s spirit could not be crushed. No matter the circumstance, Joseph understood that there is a hidden piece of spirituality, there is celestial energy amidst what might appear to be the bleak, earthy reality of the field. Whether he was a slave in his master's home, or worse yet, confined to prison, his spirit remained high. He understood that reality is layered, that beneath the first dream lay the second dream, that there must be a deeper purpose in the physical existence.

Just like Joseph himself, each of us is empowered to connect the wheat and the stars, heaven and earth, the spiritual and the mundane. The Torah gifts us with the ability to find the good in every situation, to find the spark of opportunity in every challenge. We can elevate the earthly experience and discover that even while in the field, we are living a transcendent, heavenly experience.2