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Deep Interpretation to Overcome Hardship

Are you dealing with a problem? Looking for a solution? Sometimes, we discuss our difficulties and what we are seeking is a listening ear and empathy – way before we search for a solution.

What is a solution? In today’s language, a solution is something that extricates us from a problem – a step, process, or insight that will liberate us from the place where we are stuck and help us to advance. In the Torah, however, the Hebrew for solving (patar) describes the interpretation of dreams. Every treatment for the psyche is like the interpretation of a dream.

The interpretation is not the practical conclusion that deals with the content of the dream.It is a deep analysis of the dream, an understanding of its allusions, and relates to its background in the psyche. A dream is composed of confused shards of reality and images that ascend from the unconscious. To interpret (in Hebrew, liftor) them, we have to sew (in Hebrew, litfor) their pieces in the correct manner and give them meaning. In Aramaic the root of liftor, פתר is the root פשר (pesher)(The תש were interchanged, as is common between Hebrew and Aramaic). The word pesher is repeated numerous times in the Book of Daniel, in Aramaic, in association with interpreting dreams, and appears once in Hebrew in Ecclesiastes: “Who is as the wise man, and who knows the interpretation (pesher) of a thing?”[1] The solution to a dream is finding its interpretation.

When we have a problem, particularly a problem in the realm of our emotions, a practical solution that will extricate us from the problematic situation is generally not enough. To heal the psyche, we need a solution that is a pesher, a deep interpretation that affords significance to the reality of our lives. Sometimes the interpretation is needed to achieve a true solution for a crisis, without which all the practical solutions in the world will be inaccurate and ineffective. Sometimes, just the opposite is true and first, we need to solve the actual problem – to stop the harmful behavior, for example, remove our thoughts from it and return to normal functioning – and only then will it be possible to uncover the problem’s deep roots. Sometimes, just finding the interpretation solves the problem and no additional change needs to be made.

Why is the interpretation so important? In the future, Elijah the Prophet will come to bring us good tidings of salvation and comfort. The salvation is the redemption from the hardships of the exile. The comfort is the interpretation – the deep reason behind all the hardships, an explanation that can be accepted by the heart and the understanding that it is specifically those hardships that advanced the redemption. Without the comfort, the salvation solves the situation from that point on, but leaves the difficulty and hardship of the past in place. A solution without an interpretation of the past leaves a ‘hole’ in our biography; an unwanted and unexplained period of time that continues to burden us long after the situation has passed.

This can be associated with another important element in psychological treatment: The annulment of vows, based on an understanding of the emotional motivation of the person who made the vow. The sages teach that a wise man who annuls a vow uproots it from its source as if it never existed, and not just from the moment of the annulment and onward.

As opposed to physical healing from an illness, which is liable to leave its impression and scars, the annulment of vows leaves no impression from the past. Good psychological treatment should, by the end of the treatment, create a new reality in which all the hardships of the past connect to one continuum of progress. When the hardships are deeply interpreted and put in their true perspective, they become part of the process of our growth and learning. There is a beautiful numerical allusion to this concept: The average value of the words פתרון (solution) and פשר דבר (interpretation) equals the final, culminating words of the Torah לעיני כל ישראל (“before the eyes of all Israel”). Moses rectified the eyes of Israel and taught them to see the past, present, and future as one continuum of progress toward the final redemption.

The root pesher is also the basis for the word pshara (compromise). “A compromise is preferable to a judgment.” Every hardship that one experiences is the reality of judgment. It is a feeling that God is concealed and we often feel that our reality is unjust. The pshara is the discovery that God is in every place and in every situation and that everything that takes place is the product of compassionate Divine Providence. When we make peace with God, when both the good and the bad in life are melded into a compromise, they comprise the inner peace of the soul. A numerical allusion: יודע פשר דבר [he who knows the deep interpretation of a thing] equals שר שלום [Sar Shalom – master of peace] one of the names of Mashiach, who will comfort us from the hardships of the exile and will bring true peace to the world.

[1] Ecclesiastes 8:1.

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