FREUD'S MOSES by Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi

FREUD'S MOSES

Judaism Terminable and Interminable

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Delivered as a series of lectures at Columbia, Yale, Smith, and in Paris, this eloquent, scholarly, and perceptive study explores the significance of Moses and Monotheism, Freud's last major work, written in 1934 when the impending Holocaust led him to reflect on his own Jewish identity and on psychoanalysis as a ``Jewish science.'' Yerushalmi (Professor and Director, Center for Israel and Jewish Studies/Columbia) treats Moses and Monotheism as a historical as well as a psychological document, tracing its origins to a 1822 text by Ernst Sellin, the first to claim that Moses was an Egyptian who gave monotheism to the Jews, rescued them, and in turn was slain by them in retaliation against the strict regulations he imposed on them. The murder of the father, the repression, guilt, and rehabilitation or return became part of the Jewish character, according to Freud--an inherited characteristic. In the last chapter, a dramatic monologue with Freud, Yerushalmi applies the theory to Freud himself, a secular Jew, with Freud as Moses and his father as the god who gave him a sacred text, a personally inscribed Bible with the implied mandate that he accept his Jewish heritage. In ``deferred obedience,'' he writes Moses and Monotheism and, identifying with an Egyptian rather than a Jewish Moses, expiates his guilt for rejecting his father. The text in turn becomes the ``Torah'' to the psychoanalytic movement in its ``diaspora'' following WW II. In the end, however, being a Jew to Freud was ``something miraculous'' and ``inaccessible to any analysis.'' A stimulating study (including Freud's original manuscript and unpublished letters to his father, all in German) that has ranging implications for students of Judaism, religion, Freud, and the psychoanalytic movement. Cautious, penetrating, well- focused, it raises many interesting and original questions.

Pub Date: Sept. 18th, 1991
ISBN: 0-300-04921-8
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Yale Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1991




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