Elul 2: Alan Dershowitz


I almost never dream. On that rare occasion when I do, it’s the typical dream that Freud would be proud of. I fly through the air. I can’t find the room in which an important test is being held. I’m driving too fast. I see almost no relationship between my dreams and my accomplishments.

I do have hopes, wishes, aspirations, goals – but they are rooted in reality. Dreaming is fantasy and fantasies rarely produce accomplishments.

The concept of “dreamers and their dreams” may be intended in a metaphoric way – as a euphemism for aspirations. I’ve always had aspirations. Coming from a relatively poor family, I wanted to strike a balance between doing good for the world and doing well for my family. My goal was to be able to make a living out of doing good without compromising my principles. I have strived to achieve those dual goals throughout my life.

The path I chose was one of challenge – to challenge authority, challenge conventional wisdom, challenge government and most important, challenge myself. It is not a path to popularity. Nor is it a road to a restful existence. To get back to the metaphoric dreams, mine do not result in restful sleep. Instead, they produce restlessness, even occasional nightmares. But as I turn seventy and look back on my life, I have very little to complain about – at least so far.


Alan Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard University.

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