As Dreamers: Whose Dreams?

Aug 3rd, 2011 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays
“When God will return the captivity of Zion, we will be as dreamers (Psalms 126:2).”

Everyone dreams. What is different between our dreams and those of our enemies? Why will we be “as dreamers,” rather than dreamers?

In 1918, after one final military assault that fails, Germany is defeated. Young Adolf Hitler, blind after a mustard gas attack, and humiliated after the Fatherland’s defeat, vows to enter politics:

“As the train took Hitler to a hospital in the Pomeranian town of Pasewalk, his own pain and despair obliterated any such aspiration, but after several weeks of medical treatment be began to regain his sight. Inflammation of the mucous membrane and swelling of the eyelids had receded; ‘the piercing in my sockets’ began to diminish and ‘slowly I succeeded in distinguishing the broad outlines of things about me.’ With sight came an end to depression and the mental instability that had required special treatment from a consulting psychiatrist, Professor Edmund Forster, chief of the Berlin University Nerve Clinic. Little was known about mustard gas and Hitler’s inexplicable recovery confirmed Dr. Forster in his diagnosis of the blindness as hysteria. In fact, the patient had experienced the usual symptoms of moderate mustard gas poisoning – burning, swelling, moaning, depression – and recovery in several weeks.

“Sight also brought Hitler hope and renewed interest in the events of the day. Berlin itself was in a state of virtual siege as the new Chancellor urged the Kaiser to abdicate so that an armistice could be signed. Hitler had heard stories of rebellion throughout Germany but discounted them as rumor until a delegation of Red German sailors burst into his ward early that November in an attempt to convert the patients to the revolution. … Indignation was followed by shock. Hitler took to his bed. ‘I lay there broken with great pains, although I did not let on how I felt; for it was repugnant to me to cry out at a time when you could feel that the collapse was coming.’ A little later, on November 9, a dignified elderly pastor arrived at Pasewalk hospital to confirm news of the uprisings. Revolution had even broken out in Munich.

“The patients were gathered in a little hall and the pastor, so Hitler recalled, ‘seemed all a-tremble as be informed us that the House of Hohenzollern should no longer bear the German imperial crown; that the Fatherland had become a ‘republic.’ ‘ As the aged speaker eulogized the services rendered by the Hohenzollerns, he ‘began to sob gently to himself – in the little hall the deepest dejection settled on all hearts, and I believe not an eye was able to restrain its tears.’ The pastor went on to say that the war must now be ended, that all was lost and they had to throw themselves upon the mercy of the victorious Allies. To Hitler the revelation was intolerable. ‘It became impossible for me to sit still one minute more. Again everything went black before my eyes; I tottered and groped my way back to the dormitory, threw myself on my bunk, and dug my burning head into my blankets and pillow.’

“It was the first time he had wept since standing at his mother’s grave eleven years earlier (she had died in agony of cancer), in the churchyard of the Austrian village of Leonding. He had borne the fear of blindness ‘in dull silence,’ endured the loss of so many good comrades. ‘But now I could not help it. Only now did I see how all personal suffering vanished in comparison with the misfortune of the Fatherland.’ Out of his black despair came a decision. ‘The great vacillation of my life, whether I should enter politics or remain an architect, came to an end. That night I resolved that, if I recovered my sight, I would enter politics.’ There was no medical reason for Hitler’s second blindness and Dr. Forster reinforced in his initial conclusion that his patient was definitely ‘a psychopath with hysterical symptoms.’ Hitler, however, was convinced he was permanently blind.

“The shame of Germany’s surrender on November 11 in the forest of Compiegne overwhelmed him. Life seemed unbearable, but that night, or the next, Hitler was abruptly delivered from his misery, as he lay in despair on his cot, by a ‘supernatural vision’ (perhaps deliberately induced Dr. Forster). Like St. Joan, he heard voices summoning him to save Germany. All at once ‘a miracle came to pass’ – the darkness encompassing Hitler evaporated. He could see again! He solemnly vowed, as promised, that be would ‘become a politician and devote his energies to carrying out the command he had received.’”

(John Toland; “Adolf Hitler”)

Hitler ysv”z, dreamed as a response to tragedy. The verse describes us as dreamers after the troubles are over and all is well. What were we before God returned the captives of Zion? Were we not dreaming all along?

Our dreams are not a response to tragedy, but maintaining a sense of reality and perspective. We will be “as dreamers,” when we have the privilege to see that reality is even better than what we believed. There will be a day when we look back on our visions of redemption were simple dreams in comparison to reality!

We remind ourselves now, that no matter how clear our vision, we will one day know that we were only dreamers; we know that there is much more to see. We are aware, even now, that our vision is limited. We want to see more. We need to see more.

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