Whose dreams do we want our children to have? Thoughts on Jacob and a coat

“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” is probably the most famous musical based on the Hebrew Bible.  It might be the only one, though I would love to see what Sir Andrew could do with Leviticus. The songs in “Joseph” were delightful.  The story was fun. Even Donny Osmond was perfect (maybe because he has so many siblings). The only problem with the story is that the biblical Joseph never had a coat of many colors.  Jacob gave him a Ketonet Passim, according to the Midrash a special long-sleeved or delicate coat; a coat not necessarily colorful, but highly symbolic.

In Biblical times, such a coat seemed to be a sign of tribal leadership.  Joseph’s brothers were not upset that their father gave Joseph a fancy coat.  They were upset that Jacob wanted to make Joseph, the youngest brother, the head of the tribe, bypassing the normal order of tribal succession.  Within a short time of receiving this coat, Joseph begins to dream that he is superior to both his brothers, and then his parents. It is small wonder that Joseph’s brothers try to get rid of him.

I have often wondered if Joseph would have had these same dreams had his father not given him the coat of leadership.  The coat itself seemed to cause Joseph’s dreams, dreams that got him into a great deal of trouble.  Jacob, in a sense, gave Joseph dreams that Joseph was not able to handle.  Joseph spent the next twenty years of his life recovering from his father’s plans.

Everyone is entitled to his or her own dreams. I see so many situations in which the parents are trying to live out their own lives through their children. Maybe they did not have the business or athletic success they would have liked, and so try to have their children make up for it. Sometimes the parents in fact did have great success and believe that their children, with enough effort, can be just as successful. If the child has different plans, this can lead to great stress and tension on the relationship, even if everyone really has the best of intentions.

If we cause dreams that cannot be lived up to, we risk inflicting a great deal of harm on our loved ones.  As Bruce Springsteen sang in “The River”, “Is a dream a lie if it don’t’ come true/ or is it something worse?”  We have to ask ourselves what kind of dreams we are giving to others.  Do we make them feel safe and secure?  Do we give them appropriate levels of responsibility?  Are we generous and kind to those who may not be our favorites?  Do we have reasonable career and financial expectations of our loved ones?  If we cannot answer these questions with a yes, we may be causing nightmares instead of nurturing dreams.

Let us try to make sure the dreams we give our loved ones bring them comfort and peace of mind.

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