According to Kabbalah, when a person is asleep, his soul leaves his body to a certain degree. From the perspective of the body this is a mini-death experience. However, from the perspective of the soul, sleep (as well as death) brings the opportunity to experience a "higher" more refined aspect of itself not capable of being contained in the "lower" physical body.
This "higher" dimension of the soul is referred to as the soul's root.
Similar to the manner in which a tree has its source in its root, the soul has its source in its Soul Root. That is, the human soul is rooted "above" and it is only the "lowest" aspects of one's soul that have an affiliation with the body.
For this reason, some Kabbalistic sources refer to the body as the "shoe" of the soul. Just as the body enclothes the "lowest" part of the soul and serves as the vehicle by which the soul moves through, and is involved with, this physical realm, the shoe enclothes the lowest part of the body and serves as the vehicle by which the body moves through, and is involved with, the world.
Perhaps this explains why Jews take their shoes off in situations of intense holiness—such as in the Temple in Jerusalem and on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement); as well as in situations of intense mourning, such as sitting shiva (the seven days of mourning for a relative) and on Tisha Ba'av (the Day of Mourning for the loss of both Temples in addition to other calamities that befell the Jews). Both intense holiness and intense mourning imply a separation of soul from body.
Thus, when the soul partially leaves the body during sleep, it experiences itself incorporated into its Soul Root to a certain degree, yet still maintains its affiliation with the body.
For this reason, if a person dreams while asleep, the dream can be coming from "above" due to the soul's affiliation with its Soul Root, or it can be coming from "below" due to its affiliation with the body. One way we can begin to determine what side of the person brought on the dream—the body or the Soul Root—is by deciphering whether or not the dream was connected to something the dreamer thought about during the day. If the dream was in fact something thought about during the day, it can be assumed to have been brought on by the soul's affiliation with the body and its experiences, and thus, the dream can be assumed to not have any significance.
However, if after reviewing the dream vis-à-vis one's day, thoughts, and life, the dreamer comes to the conclusion that there was nothing from his bodily existence here in the physical realm that brought on his dream, he can begin to consider the possibility that his dream was brought on by his soul's affiliation with its Soul Root and that it may in fact have significance in terms of a future event or his purpose in the world.
Interpret for the Good
Concerning such dreams, the Sages encourage us to interpret the dream for the good. That is, even if a person's dream was difficult for him to experience, he is to find goodness hidden within it since, after all, everything (including a difficult dream) is from the Infinite God and for the best. Therefore, it could even be that the person's anguish over the dream is itself the goodness hidden within it if that anguish serves as a catalyst for him to make a positive change in his life or come closer to God.
It comes out that all dreams are qualitatively good but it is up to us to see them that way. To the extent we approach them with this mindset and perspective of inherent goodness and joy, the dreams will indeed be a sign of goodness and joyous occasions to come.
Day in Review
Just as one is to align himself with the clarity of God and the inherent good of everything in the world when it comes to his dreams, one is to do the same with his entire being as a whole before he goes to sleep. That is, before a person goes to sleep, he is advised to review his thoughts, speech, and actions of that day, and recognize and confess that which he did which contradicted his true self as a soul and resulted in his disconnecting from God.
As we've spelled out in previous articles, by involving oneself in things that conflict with his true soul-self, a person builds an artificial association of self with that contra-Godly activity. This then serves as a "barrier" between his soul and the Soul of all souls (God) and between his true soul-self and the expression of his true soul-self. However, when a person confesses what he has done with sincere and deep regret, he disassociates his soul-self from such contra-Godly activity and his soul is "free" to "realign," and be incorporated within, its Soul Root.
Author's Note: Rabbi Eli will be traveling across North America in February to present his empowering and impactful Kabbalah seminars on Spirituality, Relationships, and Self-Help. For a complete catalog or to book a life-altering event contact email@example.com.