- Nov 2016
Freud has described three areas of ´psychological reality´: the unconscious, the preconscious and the conscious, of which the most important are of course the unconscious and the conscious. From a psychoanalytical point of view, consciously perceived reality is unconsciously symbolically transformed resp. interpreted. The most fundamental symbolic structure (for most, but not all Freudians) is the Oedipus complex. Its male version - which is only relevant to the subject at hand - involves the incestuous desire for the mother and the associated feelings of fear and hatred towards the father. The complex is considered ´resolved´ if, despite the internal conflict, an identification with the father (= super-ego formation) succeeds.the law of Moses contains 613 commandments ,or 'mitzvah', all are found in the Torah, which is the first five books of the old testament.
The Oedipus complex plays a role in the development of the Jewish religion that can hardly be overestimated. The central keywords are circumcision and the masculinity of the only God (with few female attributes). Circumcision can be regarded as a symbolic substitue of castration according to the principle ´a part for the whole´.
In classical Judaism it was mostly, if not always, carried out by the father (regulation in the Talmud). As a rule, no anesthesia was performed. Studies in 1995 have shown that the heart rate of a newly circumcised baby is in a critical range. According to Prof. Paul M. Fleiss of California State University, they correspond to values that also occur under torture.
So the ritual (I am only addressing classical Judaism here) generated very early, namely at the age of 8 days, a fatherly fear that radically anticipates the Oedipus complex, which, when emerging in its Freudian phase at the age of 4-5 years, builds on an already existing internal basis of fears which are unconsciously repressed. Now consider that all early Christian protagonists of the Jesus movement had made this experience and perceived both their human relationships and their religious fantasy world quite essentially under the aspect of fatherly authority.
Thus, the role of the father in Judaism is immense. Sexual fertility was a significant factor. As we know, Abraham's main task when Yahweh made a covenant with him was two things: to produce as many descendants as possible and to provide for their circumcision.
One should bear in mind that the history of the Israelites and of Judaism - both on the historical and on the mythological level - ist a history of rebellion from the start: Eve and Adam against Yahweh, Cain against the divine will, Ham against Noah, Hebrews against the Egyptians and against Moses, the prophets against polytheists and their own kings, the kings against occupying powers, many Jews against their own religion, what led to the Maccabean war, moreover, the various uprisings against Rome, resulting in the destruction of the Jewish nation).
This belongs to the dialectic of Judaism - very authoritarian on the inside, very rebellious on the outside, entirely in the sense of circumcision as a symbolic act that generates identity (identification with one's father's power) on the inside and demarcation (against uncircumcised persons) on the outside.
However, due to the psychological mechanism of the return of the oppressed (the mother) the Torah is explicitly and implicitly strongly connoted with the feminine, which permits some interesting psychoanalytical conclusions with regard to the touch taboo. It should be noted that (a) the Jewish psychoanalyst Theodor Reik interprets the Torah as a symbol of the "oppressed mother", (b) in Jewish wisdom literature the "woman wisdom" was identified with the Torah, (c) in Tanach the Torah (= the law) is associated in an important place with the mother (and not the father):
Proverbs 6, 20:
My son, keep your father's command and do not forsake your mother's teaching.
and that there is (d) in Judaism the idea of a marriage to the Torah, as expressed e.g. in Pinchas Lapide, when he speaks of Yahweh marrying his daughter (the Torah) to Israel on Mount Sinai. The Torah's feminine reference is (e) quite evident in the context of the liturgical ritual of ´Undressing the Tora´, which suggests associations with the undressing of a woman. In the course of the liturgy, first the wrapping of the Torah and then the role itself are kissed. It goes without saying that (f) Jewish religious affiliation is only passed on through the maternal line.