The exile of the Jewish soul–the apparent loss of Jewish identity–is compared to a state of sleep. In sleep the eyes are closed to outer reality. The power of sight, together with the other conscious powers of mind and heart, disappear into their subconscious source. Though this source may reflect itself in dreams and other involuntary phenomena of sleep, these phenomena occur at the most external levels of the soul and, not being based upon objective sight, are unreal. This is indicated by their lack of intrinsic order and consistency.
Similarly, in spiritual exile, when the soul is asleep, the inner eyes are closed to reality, as the Psalmist describes: “Our signs we do not see.” (Psalms 74:9). The word for “signs” in Hebrew has two meanings: 1) supernatural wonders of Divine Providence, which are hidden during exile in the guise of nature, and 2) the letters of the alphabet. The meaning of the verse, according to this interpretation, is that since our eyes are closed in sleep, our “letters” disappear from sight.
The “letters” of a Jew are the letters of Torah and tefila (prayer). The Torah letters are the building blocks of the universe. Each of the twenty-two Hebrew letters is a channel connecting the Infinite with the finite. Each is a particular state of contraction of spiritual light and life force. The shape of each letter represents its individual form of transformation of energy into matter. This can best be understood by comparison to the phenomena of thought and speech in the soul. Every letter which emerges in thought and speech is drawn from the inner essence of the intelligence and emotions of the soul.
Before Hashem’s letters of creation combine into words, they are still unable to give life to individual creatures. In this state they are called “stones”. When the “stones” are combined into words, the “houses” thereby constructed receive power to give life even to physical creatures. Thus, the inner life of every creature is its Hebrew name.
The letters of tefila are upward-bound channels that connect the soul to G-d. They are called “bricks”. (As opposed to the letters of Torah, or “stones”, which are G-d given, the letters of tefila, like bricks, are man-made.) Joined together, the bricks form “houses”. Thus, by uttering the letters of Torah and tefila, the Jew becomes a partner bound with G-d in the action of creation. While we are in exile, though, we say the words without being able to comprehend their creative power- just as in general we are insensitive to the continuous act of creation, the constant flow of letters into all beings. This, then, is the deeper meaning of the passage, “Our signs we do not see..”
Dreams are the imaginary visions of the act of creation that appear to the soul in exile. They represent spiritual or material ideals that are foreign and unreal, the pursuit of identity void of foundation. The only foundation upon which the Jew can establish his identity is Torah and mitzvot. Internally inconsistent and disordered, dreams leave the life of the spiritually exiled Jew meaningless. The Jew possesses a unique, innate sense of purpose. Purposeless existence can cause him only frustration and despair. The Jew’s ultimate purpose is inherent in the Torah, through which alone shines the Infinite “Light of Goodness” from its Giver.