Many possible interpretations are offered for the verse found in the story of Yosef in prison, where the chief butler relates his dream of “a vine with three branches, which, as it was budding its blossoms shot forth, and the clusters brought forth ripe grapes” (Bereishit 40:10).
Rabbi Eliezer says: The ‘vine’ is the world, the ‘three branches’ are the patriarchs,
Rabbi Yehoshua objects that dreams do not tell the past; they tell the future. He says: The ‘vine’ is the Torah, the ‘three branches’ are Moses, Aaron and Miriam; ‘and as it was budding its blossoms shot forth’, these are the members of the Sanhedrin; ‘and the clusters thereof brought forth ripe grapes,’ are the righteous people of every generation.
Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi interprets it in regard to the gifts bestowed by God upon Israel. He says: The ‘vine’ is the Torah, the ‘three branches’ are the well, the pillar of smoke, and the manna; ‘and as it was budding its blossoms shot forth,’ these are the first fruits; ‘and the clusters thereof brought forth ripe grapes,’ these are the libations.
Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish said: This people Israel is like unto a vine: its branches are the aristocracy, its clusters the scholars, its leaves the common people, its twigs those in Israel that are void of learning. This is what was meant when word was sent from there (the Land of Israel) – ‘Let the clusters pray for the leaves, for were it not for the leaves the clusters could not exist.’
The imagery used by these Sages is that of an ordinary grapevine, which includes four parts:
- Zemorot – branches
- Eshkolot – clusters
- Alim – leaves
- Kenokanot – twigs