We are all very familiar with this nursery rhyme, perhaps our parents sang it to us as we were falling asleep as children, perhaps we sang it to our kids. It has a beautiful soothing melody.. but the words, the words paint a multi- layered picture. On the most basic level, a row boat, caught in the current, lazily makes its way down the stream. Overhead weeping willows cause the sun to create dappled patterns in the murky water. And in the midst of the boat, a person lays, eyes closed, bare feet hanging over the edge. There but not really present.
On a deeper level, the nursery rhyme is a metaphor for life. We share control of the boat with the current- which perhaps represents God, and together we move slowly through the stream of life… a scene out of a time. There is a stilted, false quality about the moment- like when you fast forward a home video and everyone moves in slow motion. There may be times where the boat is tossed by the current, there may be times where the current refuses to move. But here, it languishes in the stream… and life is but a momentary dream.
Our Parashah for this Shabbat miketz begins in a very interesting way: Va’yahi Miketz shenasyim yamim oo’pharoah choleim. As translated by Rabbi Plaut, :After two year’s time, Pharoah dreamed and behold, he was standing by the edge of the Nile. Once again, creating a multi-layed reality. The Peshat meaning of the text, the simple meaning- Pharoah dreamed that he was standing by the edge of the Nile. A deeper interpretation- a drash by the Hasidic master Rabbi Meir of Primishlan:And it will come to pass, at the end of time, when man has attained a ripe old age, and behold he realizes that, he slept away his whole year… and suddenly it becomes evident to him, that his entire life was but a dream. He stands by the edge of the river, not daring to enter or even to cross. Mayir Aynei Yesharim takes the interpretation one step further. Not only is this man’s life a dream but within the dream, the dreamer understands that he has not repaired anything in the world, or done anything to make the world a better place- therefore, his life has been but a dream. And when he dies, there will be no reality to assure that once he actually lived. If he is not remembered, his life means nothing at all. And life is but a dream.