Do Dreams About My Child Have Any Meaning?

Every Night I Hope My Son Will Come Back To Me In My Dreams

Sometimes I have a dream about loved ones who have passed away. My parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, I miss them so much and I wish they were here with me. I’ve always wondered about the meaning of these dreams. Are dreams about my loved ones just my unconscious nighttime wishful thinking to be with them again, or are my dead relatives actually connecting with me, giving me some sort of message? 

It’s been a year and a half since my dear son Jacob passed away. Every once in a while, I have a dream about him. In one of my dreams he was a toddler. He was looking at me and had a big smile on his face. In another dream, he appeared as an adult and we were on a train together. When the train stopped, we got off and he told me that at this stop was the location of his class. The dream ended there.

Psychologists say that our dreams are rooted in things that we think about during the day. But when I dream about Jacob, I know it’s more than just that. I think about him constantly. When I engage in activities that require my full attention, I suppose I’m not thinking about him then. But when the activity is over, my thoughts return to him.

If dreams about my son were just wishful thinking to have him with me again, I should be dreaming about him every night since I am constantly thinking about him. I wish I could dream about him every night. I wish we would have lengthy conversations together in these dreams. But no, only rarely will he appear in my dreams, and the dream is very short. 

What Does The Gemara Have To Say About Dreaming Of A Dead Person?

In the Gemara, tractate Berachos 57b, our Sages say that there is a relationship between things in this physical world and the spiritual world:

‘…There are five things in the physical world which are one-sixtieth of their most extreme manifestations….Physical fire is one-sixtieth of the fire of Gehennom (Hell), honey is one-sixtieth of the manna (the miraculous food the Jews ate for forty years in the desert), Shabbat is one-sixtieth of Olam Haba (the World To Come), sleep is one-sixtieth of death, and a dream is one-sixtieth of prophecy.

Sleep Is One-Sixtieth Of Death

What is meant by ‘sleep is one-sixtieth of death’? When we sleep, part of our soul actually ascends to the spiritual realm. Sort of like the soul separating from the body at death, but not quite. Our soul has several parts and a part of the soul still animates the body as we sleep. That’s why, upon arising in the morning, Jewish people recite Modeh Ani, a short prayer thanking G-d for restoring our soul to our body after sleep. The parts of the soul and their function are discussed in my post ‘How I’m Coping With The Loss Of My Adult Son‘.

The Gemara in Berachos 57b has a lot to say about the meaning of dreams in general and goes on to discuss the meaning of dreaming about a person who passed away in particular:

‘…a person who dreams that he sees a dead person in his house is a sign of peace in the home. If the deceased ate and drank in the house, it is good omen. If he removed vessels from the house, it is a bad omen for the house because it implies that he is taking someone from the house with him. Rav Pappa says that this is only if the dream was regarding a shoe or a sandal, since that indicates someone from the house is going to embark on a long journey. The Sages said that everything a deceased person takes in a dream is a good omen except a shoe and a sandal.’

Clearly, the Sages believed that dreaming about a dead person has meaning for the living. An obvious question is why would those who have passed away want to maintain a connection with us? Their pure souls are basking in G-d’s presence. What could possibly be lacking in Olam Ha Emet, the world of truth?

A Dream Is One-Sixtieth Of Prophecy

If the departed are close relatives, the Sages say that they still love us and are concerned for our welfare. According to the Zohar, the souls of our departed parents and grandparents come to share in our simchas such as weddings, bar/bat mitzvot, and brit milot (circumcisions). When we are happy, they are too. When we are anguished, so are they. They know that their absence is the source of our grief and they truly want us to be happy and find comfort.

Departed loved ones coming to us in a dream may also be for our benefit by revealing something or to inspire us. Their soul also may desire to receive something that only we, in the world of the living, can provide. Once the soul returns to the World of Truth, it can no longer perform physical mitzvot. Acts of goodness and kindness performed by us on its behalf give the soul great pleasure. It may also rectify something that needs to be done for the deceased, like saying Kaddish.

Clearly, the Sages of the Gemara felt that dreaming about loved ones who have passed away has meaning.

Are Dreams About My Dead Relatives Meaningful?

I think the answer is a definite maybe. Although I dream in color, the images in most of my dreams are very murky, as if the color has been desaturated. Sometimes though, I’ll have a dream in which the colors are very vivid. So vivid in fact, that the person I’m dreaming about looks better in my dream than they did when they were alive. Its those dreams that I think have meaning for me. What’s also interesting is that my parents look younger in my dreams than they did when they passed away. Jewish tradition says that at the time of the Resurrection, our relatives will look as they did when they were thirty years old.

Sometimes I talk to my departed son and say ‘Hey Jacob, don’t be a stranger. Come to me in a dream and say hi once in awhile.’ So each night I lay down hoping I’ll dream of my son. If he says hi, great. If not, I guess he’s busy up there.

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