There are many causes for bad dreams: anxiety, stress, indigestion, and, in very rare cases, a message from the Divine The sages were aware of the fact that a bad dream can have a profound impact on a person, even when they are not indirect messages from God. The Talmud offers a number of helpful suggestions for those who experience nightmares:
1. Taanit Chalom, Dream Fast: “Fasting is as efficacious for the bad dream as fire is for stubble” (Ta’anit 12a). The purpose of this fast is to provide an opportunity for dreamers to introspect and to repent for any transgressions that might be weighing on them.
2. The Priestly Blessing: “If one has seen a dream and does not remember what he saw, let him stand before the priests at the time when they spread out their hands,and say as follows: ‘Sovereign of the Universe, I am Yours and my dreams are Yours. I have dreamt a dream and I do not know what it is…if they require a remedy, heal them…so turn all my dreams into something good for me…’” (Berachot 55b). The complete text of this statement is recited in an undertone during the singing interlude between the recitation of the priestly blessings. (Depending on the community, the priestly blessing is recited daily, every Shabbat or only on major holidays.)
3. Positive Interpretation: “If one has a dream which makes him sad he should go and have it interpreted in the presence of three.” (Berachot 55b). The basic of this suggestion is that a simple ceremony be held in which the dreamer gathers three close friends and relates the dream to them, after which they state: “You have seen a good dream” three times.
4. “When Samuel had a bad dream, he used to say (Zecharia 10:2), ‘The dreams speak falsely.’When he had a good dream, he used to say (rhetorically), ‘Do the dreams speak falsely?’ (Berachot 55b).
* The Taanit Chalom (Dream Fast) is not generally practiced today except by a few exceptional individuals.
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