Jacob and Joseph, Judaism’s Architects and Birth of the Ego Ideal
Three seminal father-son stories, operatic in scale, endure in Western civilization. The first is Oedipus, the son who believed a prophecy that he would kill his father and bed his mother, who believed a seer more than in himself. Freud found this a central tale for a child’s development and life course. The second, Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac, halted by God’s hand, set a standard for man’s belief in a God who demands child sacrifice, comes to the brink, then abjures. This leaves the son with inhibitions, wordless. Third is the Christ story, which begins with a man who believes he is God’s son, and ends with a man who realizes plaintively that he is forgotten by his God/father. The son advances (what he believes) are his father’s beliefs.
This book explores a fourth father-son story, that of Jacob and Joseph, offering an alternative path. The son, chosen by his father, advances the father’s wishes; the son unites an unruly, fractious, impulsive tribe of brothers to foster a people that can become a nation. This myth is colored in pastels, has subtleties, and is sung in softer registers. The son furthers his father’s dreams, and neither is destroyed.
To explore this softer myth, as in dream interpretation, this book carefully listens to the Hebrew words and their permutations to understand the inner worlds of Jacob and Joseph. It details the first evidence of the Ego Ideal, a psychic structure that softens the demanding Superego, and highlights the implications for Joseph as a leader and for the endurance of the Jewish people. The book explores the implications of this father-son pair for contemporary life.
Nathan M. Szajnberg, MD, studied at the University of Chicago College and Medical School. He completed psychoanalytic training at the St. Louis Psychoanalytic Institute, USA. He has received two awards in adolescent psychiatry and infancy from the National Institute of Mental Health and the Ticho Award. He was the Sigmund Freud Professor of Psychoanalysis at the Hebrew University, Israel, from 2007 to 2010. He is author of four books, Reluctant Warriors: Israelis Suspended Between Rome and Jerusalem; Sheba and Solomon’s Return: Ethiopian Children in Israel; JerusaLand: An Insignificant Death; and Lives Across Time (with H. Massie). He also edited Educating the Emotions: Bruno Bettelheim and Psychoanalytic Development.
"An important book depicting evolution of the human psyche through biblical father-son relationships, culminating in the Jacob-Joseph story. The latter betokens new structural and experiential possibilities, with special emphasis on significant contributions of the ego-ideal. A meaningful exploration that opens new insight on our psycho-spiritual quest."
Michael Eigen Author of Faith, The Psychoanalytic Mystic, and Contact With the Depth
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