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"And Rebecca Loved Jacob", But Freud Did Not

Author(s): Yael S. Feldman


Source: Jewish Studies Quarterly, Vol. 1, No. 1 (1993/94), pp. 72-88
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"AndRebeccaLoved Jacob",
But FreudDid Not*
Yael

S. Feldman
Isaac lovedEsau becauseof thegame,
he fedhim,and RebeccalovedJacob.
Genesis25:28

That the force of passionate love with all its adverse and tragic
ramifications
is one of thehighpointsof theJacobstoryis wellknown.
And it is preciselythis romanticfeaturethathas made Jacob so acfromThomas Mann's Joseph
cessibleto modernliteraryreworkings,
is
devoted
to "The Tales of Jacob")
of
which
first
volume
trilogy(the
to Harold Bloom'srecenthermeneutic
fiction,The Book of J ("Before
I becameconvincedthatJwas a woman,I tendedto believethatJacob
a kindof self-representation"
was J'ssignature,
[1990,209]).
Less obvious is the fact that this ostensiblysudden effusionof
as it may at firstseem.Althoughunpassion is not as unpredictable
in theearlierportionsof Genesis,it is subtlyrationalized
precedented
of theJacobcycleitself,whichoffersa compact
withinthepsychology
but completeeconomyof familydynamics.
It shouldcome as no surprisethatat thecore of thiseconomywe
of theverb 'ahav(love). As we shallsee,thissingle
finda proliferation
and appetitesthatrange- in the
Hebrewrootcoversa varietyof affects
and maternallove,
languageof modernpsychology fromtransference
and dependence,desireand lust.
to gluttony
bondingand attachment,
* The ideas
presentedherewere originallydevelopedin my classes at Columbia
Universityand formalizedin my "Recurrenceand Sublimation:Toward a PsychoanalyticApproach to Biblical Narrative"(1989). Earlier versionsof this essay were
a 1991 Columbia
presentedat the 1990 meetingof the Societyof Biblical Literature,
UniversitySeminaron Israel and JewishStudies,and a 1992 New York University
Seminaron Psychoanalysisand theHumanities.I would liketo thanktheparticipants
at the UniversitySeminars,fortheirhelpfulcomments
at thesemeetings,particularly
and challengingcriticism.
JewishStudies Quarterly,vol.1 (1993J

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JSQ 1

'AndRebeccaLovedJacob",Bui FreudDid Not

73

This semanticfieldis further


reinforced
bya setof antonyms,
denoting
hate,derision,and jealousy (satam,sana', baz, kine*),as well as by a
of emotions- kissing,hugrelatively
highdensityof otherexpressions
ging,and weeping.
these latterexpressionsare all an exclusivelymale
Surprisingly,
(not onlyin thisstory,but in theDavid cycleas well);and
prerogative
unlikeothertraditions
forexample),
(the Homericor the Far-Eastern,
wheremale tearsfunction
heretheysignala permostlyritualistically,
sonal experience.
WhenJacobis carriedawayto thepointof weeping
(upon settingeyeson Rachel forthe firsttime;Gen. 29:11), the conWesternreaderis likelyto raise an eyebrow.Accordingto
temporary
our norms,thisis a ratherunexpected"feminine"
behavior.This culturaldivergence
be
(amongothers)mayperhaps helpfulin delineating
theboundariesof theissueat hand - thedifference
betweenthepsychmodels
biblical
narrative
and
the psychoanalytic
ological
impliedby
modeldevisedforus by Freud and his disciples.
This issueis not new.Severalcontemporary
criticshavecommented
on the disparitybetweenOedipus and Isaac, who represent,
respectively,filialaggressionand rebellionin contrastto passivityand submission(Wellisch1954;Bakan 1966; Shoham 1976). But it is not only
Isaac who does not fitthe oedipal mold. As I have pointedout elsewithIsaac.
where,"therecan be no doubtthatFreudcould notidentify
withAbrahamin thatfamousepisode[the
Nor couldhe haveidentified
bindingof Isaac], forhe was just as 'bound' by his heavenlyfatheras
Isaac was" (Feldman 1989,79).
Impliedin my statementis the claim that thereis of necessitya
certainlack of fitbetweenthe two systemsunderdiscussion;thatif
- searchingfora masterplot
Freudwas - consciouslyor unconsciously
whichhe saw
thatwouldrepresent
theRomanticdefianceof authority
as the motiveforceof his life(and whichhe generalizedforthe exat large),he could not havefoundit in
perienceof secularmodernism
a monotheistic
traditionthatmade the Akeda or "bindingof Isaac"
withitsconstant"vertical"
Greekmythology,
(Gen. 22) itscenterpiece.
and
generationalstruggle,with its potentialand actual infanticides
a betterfit.Even here,we shouldrecall,Freudhad
offered
patricides,
to performa littlecosmeticsurgery,ignoringLaius' initial action
againsthis son and - like Sophocles (Rudnytsky1987, 254-56) locatinghis own startingpoint for the drama in Oedipus himself.
Biblicalnarrative,
on the otherhand, particularly
at the heightof its
in
the
Akeda
could
offer
no such resource.
stylistic
austerity
episode,
its
dramatic
more
Despite
potential(developed
fullyin the various

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74

YaelS. Feldman

JSQ 1

of thestory;see Spiegel1950;Ginzberg1913,271midrashic
retellings
86), its textualrepressionsseem to be too successfulto allow a full
analysisof unconnamely,a meaningful
interpretation,
psychoanalytic
desire(Feldman 1989,79-80).
scious fantasyand instinctual
stories?Couldn'ttheJacob/Joseph
But whatof theotherpatriarchal
statesand a viablematernalpresstory,withits profusionof affective
ence,fillthe gap? Why,then,didn'tthe familydynamicsof thisstory
attractFreud's attention?And why,in the finalanalysis,should we
care?
thislast questionto theclose of myessay,let me startby
Deferring
I
that
have not foundany new evidenceto corroboratemy
stating
claims.As far as we know,Freud identified- in a ratherawkward
manner- withMoses, thegiverof thenew law,but also theobjectof
as Moses and Monotheism
clearlyargues(althoughthisruns
patricide,
Yerushalmi
sense
of biblicalnarrative;
to
the
counter
plain
completely
identification
with
his
so-called
61
et
1991,
Joseph,
passim).Similarly,
as
thefavorite
youngson (Shengold1979),was markedbyambivalence,
techhe made everyeffortto distancehimselffromthe interpretive
niques of his ancientprecursor(Frieden 1990). The firstthreepatriarchs,however,do not figureat all in his writings
(except,of course,
whosenamewas Jakob,an ironyto which
whenhe refersto his father,
I shallreturn).So myquestionabout Freud'slack of love forJacobis
forthemomenta rhetoricalone - a heuristicployto explorethe pevis--visour contemporary,
of biblicalpsychology
post-Freudculiarity
I would argue,maybe theculmination
This sensibility,
ian sensibility.
but - contraryto prevailing
of a longWesterntradition,
perception
A close readingof
derivefrombiblicalnarrative.
does not necessarily
the lattershould at least put into questionthe popular (and facile)
equationof the Freudiannuclearfamilywiththe biblicalfamily.1
1 "It is
only in a world freedfromthe organizationof the Freudianor Biblical
nuclear familythat a non-power-driven
relationshipbetween women and men is
possible", says Carolyn Heilbrun in her afterwordto the collection of essays
Daughtersand Fathers(1989, 418; italicsadded). Curiously,thiscollocationis never
and the "biblical family"is not mentionedagain. Instead
repeatedin the afterword,
the afterwordconsistsof a sustainedfeministcritiqueof the "oedipal family",and
seeks to celebratefamilystructuresthatdifferfromthatmodel. Ironically,a similar
critiqueis impliedby myanalysis,exceptthatI claim thatthe familyorganizationof
the "weakness"
the Hebrew Bible may offersuch nonoedipal dynamics.Structurally,
of biblical fatherscan be compared to the frequent"absence" of fathersin black
familiesthatservesas one of Heilbrun'salternatives
(421). But to see thesesimilarities
has
one has to foregothe blanketbias against the Hebrew Bible thatunfortunately
characterizedmuch of feministcriticismsince the appearance of Elizabeth Cady
Stanton's Woman'sBible (1895) a centuryago.

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JSQ 1

"AndRebeccaLovedJacob",ButFreudDid Not

75

To beginwith,letus look at thefamilystructure.


By equippingIsaac
and Rebeccawithtwinsratherthana singleson, thebiblicalnarrative
of classicalpsychoanalysis
a fundamental
circumvents
presupposition
of all familydynamics."Squaringthetriangle",so to
thetriangularity
at least on the surface,the pitfallof
speak,the Jacobstoryforestalls,
internalconflictimputedby Freudto any son in the oedipal position.
in whicheach childis aligned
of loyalties,
Rather,theneatdistribution
withone parent,allows forsome dyadicobject relations,resultingin
bondingratherthanconflict.
reconflictis further
This avoidanceof "vertical,"
intergenerational
his
fixated
the
inforcedby
by
gluttony(or
paternalposition.Orally
"love" of food) and blind,Isaac is too weak and dependentto arouse
filialdefiance.In fact,thetextcompulsively
emphasizeshis cravingfor
Esau's delicacies(ch. 27), therebyretrospectively
makingsense of the
"for
"ki
[therewas] huntin
unique expression tzayidbe-fiv"(literally:
of
his mouth";25:28). Playingoffits closestanalogue,thedescription
to the ark "(ve-'alehzayit) tarafbe-fihah"
Noah's dove returning
(litplucked[rent?]in hermouth";8:11), Isaac's
erally:"[and an olive-leaf]
viewof his son activatesthe synonymic
paradigmtzayid- teref(hunt,
thereby
conjuringthe imageof the parental
prey,food,nourishment),
animal or bird of preyfeedingits young.If we add to thischain of
associationsthe resonanceof Proverbs'Womanof Valor
intertextual
who "bringsfood [lit.'prey']to her family"("va-titenterefle-veitah"
Prv.31:15),thereversalof rolesbecomesmoreapparent:Isaac's partiality toward Esau is what psychoanalystscall "anaclitic love", the
a childformstowardhismotheror otherproviddependentattachment
in the
and similarneeds.(Hence my translation,
ers of nourishment
epigraphto thispaper,"becauseof thegamehefedhim".)This reversal
him in a
casts Esau, in his turn,in an unexpectedlight,implicating
issue to whichI
secondreversal,thatof genderroles- an intriguing
shall return.
One can hardlyimaginesucha paternalfigureservingas thesource
of a Freudiancastrationthreator of a Lacanian "'No' of theFather"
- thenecessary
forthe
condition,accordingto classicalpsychoanalysis,
resolutionof the son's Oedipus complex.By the logic of thistheory,
withouta strongfatherimage the boy is unable to pass the test of
of his instinctual
civilization- the renunciation
desires,or,in Lacan's
In
maternal
of
the
the
formulation, relinquishing
imaginary.
preoedipal,
in internalizing
the"Law of
sucha position,theson willhavedifficulty
the Father",thatprocesswhichproducesFreud'ssuperego(the conscienceor morality
principle)or,in Lacan's scheme,allowshimto enter

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76

YaelS. Feldman

JSQ 1

thelaw of languageand othersocialinstituthesymbolicorder,namely,


tions(Lacan 1957-58,in Mitchelland Rose 1982,39). That thisstructurecomes closerto theclassicalFreudianpositionon thefemaleoeThis is one more
shouldcome as no surprise.2
dipal (non)dissolution
later.
ironicclue to be followedup
the paradox of my insinuation.
For the moment,let me highlight
Isaac's progenyrisklosingwhathas alFroma Freudianperspective,
ways been viewed as the Bible's greatestcontribution the moral
to
its
this
paradox
logical conclusion,we may
principle.Following
their
father'searlytrauma,albeit
in
fact
do
that
they
repeat
perceive
circumstances:
underdifferent
Jacob/Israel,
despitenarrativedeclarationsto the contrary("You strovewithGod and withmen,but you
prevailed";Gen. 32:29), is unableto "say no" to his sons,withrather
disastrousresults(see theinfamousDinah episode,ch. 34). And if we
allow ourselvesa glance into the future,we notice that David, that
fearlesswarrior-leader,
evinces a similarpolicy of noninvolvement
wherehis sons are concerned(Amnonand Absalomare theparamount
cases; 2 Sam. 13-19). On theotherhand,theblatantexceptionto this
his son (1 Sam.
rule- Saul's violencetowardDavid and evenJonathan,
as
an
the
resultof an
is
rationalized
the
text
aberration,
18-20)
by
"evil spirit"visitedupon himby God (1 Sam. 18:10). Biblicalfathers,
it would seem,are not made forthe Freudianmasterplot.Rarelyexpressingaggression,theyseem to avoid conflictratherthan arousing
(and resolving)it. This does not mean, however,thatconflicttotally
disappears.It is recreatedon the "horizontal"level,in therelationship
one of themajorwaysin which
thushighlighting
betweenthebrothers,
the patriarchalstoriesdivergefromFreud's interests:theirfocus on
siblingrivalryratherthan on filialrebellion.
intragenerational
There is no need to reviewhere the ubiquityof this conflict
is thepeculiar
Genesis(and beyond).Whatis of importance
throughout
from
used in shapingit, and thewayit differs
mode of representation
the Freudianmodel. And here we would do well to rememberthat,
and pubalthoughinpracticeFreud'slifewas marked(both privately
in
which
fact
were
feuds
and
constant
rifts,
"actingsout" of
licly)by
to
his
tolerate
inability
anycompeting
theoryis bynow
siblingrivalry
a matterof publicrecord,whilehisjealousyof hisyoungerbrotherwas
and
admittedbyhimand has beenprobedbyhis biographers
privately
et
commentators
1987,19
(Jones 1961,7; Gay 1988,11; Rudnytsky
2 "Thefearof castration
in thelittlegirl,a powerful
motive
beingthusexcluded
of thesuper-ego"
also dropsout forthesetting-up
(Freud1924,178).

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JSQ 1

'AndRebeccaLovedJacob",ButFreudDid Not

77

littletheoretical
passim;Yerushalmi1991,92) -, he showedrelatively
devotedto this
in thesubject.None of his papersis specifically
interest
issue,nor did he coin a specialtermforit ("siblingrivalry"does not
appearin theindexof his works,nor does anyotherrelatedconcept).
Moreover,despitethe prominentrole attributedto the death of his
his probingled to the discoveryof
brotherJuliusin his self-analysis,
1987,71; Yerushalmi1991,92).
"Oedipus",not "Cain" (Rudnytsky
aside,let us hear theevidence
Settingtheironyof thisdiscrepancy
of a latter-day
practitioner:
withsiblingsdoes not havethesame kindof repressive,
The conflict
does.Butas a sourceof
forbidden
qualitythattheoedipalstruggle
utterly
has perhapsbeen
poignancyand pain,thisarea of humanrelationship
situaof thechild-parent
withtheproblems
in comparison
underestimated
tion.(Zeligs1974,88)
The speakeris DorothyZeligs,a devoutFreudianof theold order.
Her tonehereis uncharacteristically
critical,yetthecritiqueis carefully
wonder.
She
questionsnothingless thanthecentrality
hedged.And no
of classicalFreudiantheory
cornerstone
the
of theOedipuscomplex
- and thisnot in thecontextof contemporary
revisions
post-Freudian
or
other
anti-Oedipuscritiques),
(Kleinian object relations,feminist,
of an otherwiseorthodoxFreudianabut fromwithintheframework
nalysis.
the occasion for Zeligs' tacit revaluationis her
Not surprisingly,
and theBible.And it is perhapsworthnotingthat
study,Psychoanalysis
thisrevaluation
appearsonlyin thebook, publishedin 1974,butnotin
the 1950s
herearlierarticlespublishedin AmericanImago throughout
that
her
conclusions
can
We
surmise,
then,
(Zeligs 1953,1955a,1955b).
weremade possiblenot onlyby the specificmaterialshe was working
eswith,but also by the changingclimatewithinthe psychoanalytic
a changethatis evidencedby collectionsof essaysand
tablishment,
thatwerepublishedmostlyin the1980s:
severalbooks on siblingrivalry
see The Psychoanalytic
Studyof the Child(1983), and Psychoanalytic
Inquiry(1988).3
thatZeligs arrivesat her conclusiononlyby the end
Furthermore,
of her thirdchapter,afterimposingthe oedipal plot on Abraham,
Siblingrivalryreachesits
Jacob,and Joseph,is also quite predictable.
in theJosephstory,so thatthestrainon heroedifullestorchestration
pal modelbecomesunbearable.Thus,she is obligedto acknowledgethe
3 I amindebted
to thesecolforcalling
Rosenfeld
toDr.Barbara
myattention
lections.

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78

YaelS. Feldman

JSQ 1

harmony
underlying
Joseph'srelationswithhis "fatherfigures"(1974,
thathis is onlythemostextreme
case
89), withoutactuallyrecognizing
of a generalpattern.The otherfactorstandingin her way is her inclinationto treatisolated"personalities",
thereby
missingthecentrality
of Genesis.
of siblingrivalryin the overallnarrativestructure
Indeed, the Bible's mythologicalfirstmurderby no means corof theprimalhorde.Rather,
roboratesFreud'spatricidalreconstruction
- theonlyone actuallycarriedout in thetext- is
a case of fratricide
love
theprimalscene(and sin) of Genesis.4Yet if thereis no brotherly
to
comes
lostin theAbel and Cain story(Gen. 4), brotherly
aggression
on
heldin check.In contrastto ReneGirard's insistence
be increasingly
the universality
and ubiquityof scapegoatingand (sibling)violence
in
thisbasic humanimpulsegoes througha series
Genesis
(1972; 1982),
in whichthepotentialoutburstis alwaysmitigated,
of representations
or deflected,
neutralized,
usuallyby meansof physicalseparation(e.g.,
Abrahamand Lot, Isaac and Ishmael,and finallyalso Jacoband Esau)
or othercompromises
(Rachel and Leah). It is in theJosephstory,of
that
the
course,
siblingrivalrythemereachesits culminationby being
both acted out and reversedon a grandscale. In thisaccount,moreof theunconsciousappearsforthefirst
over,a narrative
representation
time,in Joseph'sdreamsand dreaminterpretation.
Joseph,the dream
is
also
the
first
human
to
interpreter,
being recognizeand verbalizethe
betweenpast and future.Finally,the moral implicainterdependence
tions of this recognitionare explicitlystatedhere (Gen. 45:5-8; see
Alter 1981, 163 et passim),onlyto be further
developedand orchestratedin thenextbook, Exodus.The journeyfromCain to Joseph,and
laterto Moses,maytherefore
be seenas theearliestliterary
representationof a movefromblindaggressionto reasonedinsight,fromacting
and knowing.
out to remembering
But isn't this what the psychoanalytic
processis all about? And
feature
wouldn'tthisinsightlenda newmeaningto themostprominent
knownmorepopularly
of biblicalpoetics,namely,narrative
recurrence,
as repetition?
Yes and no. Here we runintoan intriguing
paradox.For
Freud (1920), the compulsionto repeatis associatedwiththe death
4 The most recent
probing into this divergenceis Yerushalmi'simpassioned
"Monologue with Freud": "Why it is that throughoutyourwork you have concentratedso exclusivelyon patricide,whyonly the Oedipus complex and not a 'Cain
complex',has remainedan enigma to me" (1991, 92). AlthoughYerushalmi'squery
derivesfroma different
context,that of the historicalrivalrybetweenChristianity,
"the youngerson", and Judaism,"the older son", I hope the followingargumentmay
shed some lighton the enigma he points out.

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JSQ 1

"AndRebeccaLovedJacob",ButFreudDid Not

79

drive- theimpulseto resistchange,progress,


and life.The analysand's
he argued(1914), havereplacedmemory;and
unconsciousrepetitions,
it is preciselythisviciouscirclethatthe psychoanalytic
processmust
his alienatedexperiences,
disrupt,so thatthe subjectcan re-member
of theself.In biblicalnarrative,
on
achievinga newintegration
thereby
thatchangeis slowly
theotherhand,it is throughrecalland recurrence
broughtabout.
I have introduced."RepetiYet noticethe slightlexicaldifference
The
tion"is almosta misnomerwhentalkingabout biblicalnarrative.
emphasisin recentscholarshipon biblicalpoeticsis on "themeand
variations".Whereasverbatim
repetition,
says Meir Sternberg(1985),
of the ancientprebiblicalmyths,
markedthe literaryrepresentation
was theinnovationand contribution
of the
witha difference
repetition
HebrewBible (Alter1981). It is forthe sake of thispoeticdistinction
recurrence"
for
thatI haveelsewhereproposedto substitute
"narrative
I
have
Yet
this
reformulation
(1989,82).
repetition
by
gainedsomething
forbiblicalnarrativeand certaincontemelse - a commonterritory
process.
poraryviewsof thepsychoanalytic
FollowingPaul Ricoeur's(1970) phenomenological
critiqueof psyhis
of
both
the
verbal
and
narrative
nature
and
highlighting
choanalysis
of clinicalexperience(1977a, 836-43), narrativepsychologyhas been
gainingground,as in the theoriesof Roy Schafer,MertonGill, and
Donald Spence. In recentyears,the emphasis on the functionof
(Schfer1979),and narrametaphor(Ricoeur1977b),multiplehistories
tivetruth(Spence1982) in the psychoanalytic
processhas led to the
"narrative
recursion".
of
highlighting
"The originalconflictor fantasyor earlyexperience",
says Spence,
"is almostneverliterallyrepeatedin the transference;
rather,whatwe
see is a seriesof variationson a singletheme"(1987, 191). It is thispolyphonicclinicalrecursionthat"cuts down on the senselessrepetition
therewhichwouldmakethepatternseemmechanicaland unnatural,"
thetherapeutic
transition
fromlanguageto action(195).
by effecting
The parametersof this action (e.g., change,growth,adaptation,
sublimation)and the socioethicalnorms theyimplyare still being
And itis perhaps
debatedwithinthepsychoanalytic
community.
fiercely
in thisrespectthattherepetition
in variation,or whatI preferto name
the "spiralmovement"
(cyclicaland linearat one and the same time)
is most instructive.
of biblicalnarrative,
For, in contrastto Freudian
in theBiblethismovement
towardchangeand sublimation
is
thinking,
not inspiredby anotherhumanbeing,paternalor otherwise.
It is not
in the patriarchal
the threatof humanauthority
thatgetsinternalized

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80

YaelS. Feldman

JSQ 1

stories,but ratherthe demand of divineauthority.


Nothingdemonof the
stratesthisdisparitybetterthan the conflicting
interpretations
famousagon thatsecuresJacob'sblessing(Gen. 32:25-33).
Freudianssuchas Rank (1912),Reik(1951),and Zeligshavehad no
Jacob'snightlyadversarywiththe figureof the
problemidentifying
father,
locatingheretheresolutionof theOedipuscomplex.Elaborating
that"brotherand fatheralreadyblendin
on Rank'sgeneralstatement
thedreamas a singleperson"(1912,242),Zeligsclaimsthat"thedream
portrayswith dramaticcondensationhow castrationanxietybrings
of
wishesand the strengthening
of instinctual
about the renunciation
the superego"(1974, 53), passingin silenceoverthefactthatJacobis
now himselfan agingpaterfamlias.
Even as
The textitself,however,suggestsan alternative
possibility.
the
us
for
the
itsplot dramatically
brother, enigmatic
wording
prepares
leavesthe identityand natureof the adof the actual confrontation
Thus,thecombatsceneis precededby
versaryopen to interpretation.
a long sequence (32:4-24), marked by long, repetitivesentences
forbiblicalstyle)devotedto Jacob'sfearsof Esau and to his
(w/itypical
In thissequence,Jacob
to wardoffanyconfrontation.
variousattempts
if
nine
as
his
brother's
name
times,
hopingforsome kind of
repeats
verbal, incantationalmagic. In contrast,verse 25 abruptlystates:
withhimuntildawn".
"Jacobremainedalone,and a man ('ish)wrestled
transitionfromthe verbosityof the "Esau repetiThis starkstylistic
tion,"paradoxically
signalingthetacticsof avoidanceand denial,to the
tersenessand factualeconomyused in the depictionof inescapable
reality,producesan uncannyeffect.Yet, as far as the Hebrewtextis
concerned,thisis not a dreamstate,as bothRank and Zeligs assume,
On the contrary,his generic
nor is the 'ish ("man") identifiable.
reinforced
by the notorioussyntacticambiguityof the
nonspecificity,
dialoguebetweenthe combatants(Barthes1975),enablesa rereading
thatrunscounterto the expectationsarousedby the narrativeitself.
read
Thus it is neitherthebrothernor thefatherwho is retrospectively
into
inscribedivineauthority
intothe agon. Rather,bothparticipants
the textuallyambiguousspace (Gen. 32:29-31).
In contrastto Freud,then,biblicalnarrative
playsdownthepowerof
becauseitis notfromhimthatthemoralobligationto
thehumanfather,
drives(ratherthan "renounce"them,as Freud
harnessthe instinctual
wouldhaveit) generallyissues.This maysound paradoxical,sincethe
in particular)as the
HebrewBibleis perceived(bypopularChristianity
in
Father
monotheism
not
of
Religion",in
general("the
origin
only
butalso of thespecificimageof theGod of
Freud's[1939]formulation),

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JSQ 1

"AndRebeccaLovedJacob",ButFreudDid Not

81

of thecastrating,
paternalauthority
Vengeance,theobviousarchetype
of thisperceptpostulatedbyFreud.Settingaside theblatantpartiality
ion,letus ponderthemeaningof theparadoxforFreud'smasterplot.
If, as I claim,the HebrewBible channelsall its "paternalenergy"
if we are to be trueto the textin all its
(both harshand benevolent,
it leaveslittleroomfor
nuances)intotheimageof theheavenlyfather,
In
withinits humandrama. thatsense,theBinding
paternalauthority
notonlyof theHebrewBible,but
of Isaac mayperhapsbe emblematic,
is not the Promethean
dramatizes
of Jewishcultureat large.5Whatit
and popularizedby
Romantics
the
defianceof authorityglorifiedby
a
chain of same-sex
but
rather
Freud's positiveOedipus complex,
Freud's negative
in
with
more
line
and
submissions
identifications,
Oedipus complex.
cannotbe overestimated.
of thisdivergence
The significance
Clearly,
betweenthesetwo aspects,not onlyin
thereis a worldof difference
theirinception(thenegativeOedipuscomplexwas not discovereduntil
twodecadesafterthepositive;see Freud1923),butalso in theircultural
cliWhileprofessional
appeal, evaluation,and populardissemination.
niciansinsiston the ubiquityof the negativeOedipus complex,and
in the materialand behaviorof
recentscholarshipfindsit, ironically,
aroundthe turnof thecentury(and evenin
Freud'sown self-analysis
Sophocles' original Oedipus; Rudnytsky1987,253-74), the concept
For theaverageconsumerof
hardlyexistsin thepopularimagination.
one
is
there
wisdom,
"Oedipus" theone comonly
twentieth-century
overthemother.A
and not necessarily
petingwithhis father(figures),
Bloom's
Harold
is
of
this
literaryappropriaselectivity
good example
tionof thepositiveOedipuscomplexin TheAnxiety
(1973).
of Influence
conhow the vestigesof Romanticism
illustrates
This studyperfectly
culturebyabsorbingfromthenew(in this
tinueto shapecontemporary
whatis in linewithits own premisesand rejecting
case psychoanalysis)
whatis not.Thereis no doubtthatthenegativeOedipuscomplex,with
was a threatening
its bisexualand homosexualimplications,
discovery
of the
evenforFreud,letalone his(and our) fellowcitizens,
particularly
malepersuasion.It was probablythisthreatthatdelayedhisrecognition
of it,and itmayhavebeenone of thereasonsforhis relianceon Greek
drama ratherthanon biblicalnarrative.
The ironyof the last observationshould not elude us. It was in
was a societalnorm,
Greekculture,of course,thatmale homosexuality
5 I elaborateon thispointin myforthcoming
essay,"Back to Genesis:The Return
of the Repressedin Israeli Identity".

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82

YaelS. Feldman

JSQ 1

whilebiblicallaw forbadeit outright(Lev. 18:22;20:13). This is why


biblical narrativecannot openlyacknowledgeits own psychological
disguisedby therampantuse
makeup.Rather,thelatteris successfully
of intragenerational
conflict.Fromthispointof view,theemphasison
of biblical psysiblingrivalryhelps to highlightthe distinctiveness
chology,althoughpsychoanalysishas usually refusedto accept it.
Freudianstendto conflatetheoedipal and the siblingconflicts,
seeing
one as a displacement
of the other.The impulsesrepressedin the relationshipwiththe parents,says Rank, are developedamong siblings
"in a less impededand more lastingmanner"(1912,363). My argument,on the otherhand,is thatthepsychological
economyof the siand
that
this
difference
is
of
crucialimportance,
is
blingplot different,
becauseit toucheson thecontemporary
debateoversexualessentialism
- a debatethatto a greatextentis stillboggeddownby pro-Freudian
and anti-Freudiandichotomies(see particularly
the Frenchfeminist
for
Fuss
vs.
school, Irigaray Kristeva,
1989). What I am
example;
in
is
biblical
at
that
suggesting, short,
psychology, least as far as the
Jacobstoryis concerned,can offera modelthatfreesthefamilystructurenot onlyfromrigidgenerational
strifeas postulatedby Freud,but
also fromthe no less rigidgenderrolesimposedon it by the oedipal
To ilmasterplotand its insistenceon essentialistsexual difference.
lustratemy point,let us go back to the openingof thisessay - the
the Isaac household.
psychologicalstructure
underlying
Of all biblicalfamiliesthatof Isaac is the closestto the monogaIsaac is theonlypatriarchnot to takeor
mous modernnuclearfamily.
be givena secondwife,despiteRebecca'slong infertility.
But how are
thisuniqueness?Is it anothersymptomof Isaac's ubiwe to interpret
his lifelongrepetition
of his traumatic
quitouspassivity,
binding?Or is
and obliquely
someotherforceat workhere,a newelementonlytersely
hintedat by the text?
inWhat I am referring
to is the notionof affective
attachment,
troducedforthe firsttimewithIsaac's love forRebecca (Gen. 24:67).
The onlyearliermentionof theverb"to love" is the notorious'asher
'ahavtaof chapter22, whereGod tellsAbrahamto take "yourson,
youronly son, the one you love" to Mount Moriah (22:2). But embeddedas thisphraseis in.a subordinateclause of a reportedspeech,
forceof thenarrator's
it does nothavethe"objective",fact-establishing
in
the
Isaac-RebeccaJacob story
as
we
hear
it
discourse,
repeatedly
The
first
of
these
instances
is of
(24:67; 25:28; 27:14; 29:18,20,30,32).
in
a
it
economic
as
interest,
sequence,in
appears
wonderfully
particular
whichIsaac "bringsRebecca to his motherSarah's tent","takesher",

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JSQ 1

"AndRebeccaLovedJacob",ButFreudDid Not

83

she "becomes his wife",vaye'ehaveha(and "he loved her?" "fell in


love?" "was enamoredof her?" - the densityof Hebrewsemantics
and - as if thiswerethehiddenagenda
makesit difficult
to determine),
forhismother"(anothertypiof thewholeseries "he was comforted
to Sarah's death,
cally ellipticHebrew phrase,apparentlyreferring
and withoutemotionat theopeningof theprevious
mentionedbriefly
chapter[23:1]).
One need not be an astute Freudianto read into this breathless
fromexternalactionsto interiorstates,
chain,in its linearprogression
of thepsychoanalytic
a biblicalrepresentation
conceptof transference
love.This is neitherlove at firstsightnor thegrandpassionthatJacob
withRachel. As the orderingof theverbssubtlyenlaterexperiences
is
a
substitute
this
love,replacinglack and griefwiththecomfort
codes,
thefirsttime
But it is nonetheless
thatgrowsout of sharedproximity.
in Genesis thata male-femalerelationshipis definedby its affective
function(vayeda',"and he knew")
aspectratherthanby its generative
or the lack thereof.
is introducedthroughIsaac, the otherwise
That this redefinition
shadowycharacter,who, with ostensiblenavet,repeatshis father's
Avimelech
rusewiththesamelocal gentile,
(Genesis20 and 26), should
of a long
herethebeginning
We maybe witnessing
comeas no surprise.
Westerntraditionin whichtheworldof actionand theworldof affect
are polarizedand understoodonlyin theirnegationof each other.
is thatwhatis traditionally
WhatI wouldliketo suggest,however,
can
hismerelywalkingin hisfather's
seenas Isaac's passivity,
footsteps,
if we bracketour received,unquestioned
be otherwiseinterpreted
valorizationof activityin the publicsphere.To do thispermitsus to
with
noticethe one conspicuousdetail in whichIsaac's entanglement
Avimelechdivergesfromthat of his father.While in the case of
is forewarned
Abraham,Avimelech
by God (20:3) who alertshim(in a
dream)that"thewomanyou havetaken[Sarah]is husbanded",in the
case of Isaac, Avimelechfindsout forhimself(26:8) beforeanyaction
imwas taken(anotherturnin the spiralmovementof the narrative,
of human internalization
fordivineintervenplyingthe substitution
tion). Moreover,the long dialogue betweenAvimelechand God in
chapter20 is replacedhereby a terseobservation.As Avimelechwas
[Yitzhak
watchingthroughhis windowhe saw "Isaac playing/laughing
withRebecca his wife".Again,thecompactnessof Hebrew
metzahek]
makesan acsyntax,accompaniedby its dense but elusivesemantics,
It is clear,
of
this
almost
curatecontemporary
rendering
pun
impossible.
Avimelech
takes
his
cue
not
from
divine
that
this
intervention,
however,

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84

YaelS. Feldman

JSQ 1

but fromthe observablefact of Isaac's apparent"joy" or "fun" or


"bliss", perhaps "jouissance",or howeverone wishes to renderthe
"withRebeccahis
in his relationship
of theverbmetzahek,
playfulness
wife".This detail,withits hintof mutuality
("with"),nicelydovetails
withIsaac's initiallyavowedlove forRebecca. As such,it adds a new
dimensionto the charactertraitimpliedby his name (Yitzhak).Forlaughter(Gen. 18:12-15) and possibly
merlytheobjectof disbelieving
in
the subject position,the agent of
is
now
mockery(21:9), Isaac
and domesticbliss.
of
sexual
that
kind
of
another
playfulness
laughter,
We maysurmise,then,thatin thefigureof Isaac a different
optionis
the
of
internalized
that
sketched
action,
out,
sphereof the
hesitantly
heartand the hearth.
If by now the readeris wonderingwhyI have been avoidingthe
associatedwiththissphere- the"feminine"
simplecode wordgenerally
- thenI havejust made mypoint.It is not theBible'sfault,definitely
cloudedby
has beenso thoroughly
notpoor Isaac's,thatourperception
in this centuryby Freudian
two millenniaof misreading,reinforced
or ratherits ideologicalunderBiblicalnarrative,
genderessentialism.
but
this
without
is
not
faults,
dichotomyis not
problematic
pinnings,
axis with
of
the
male-female
identification
The
them.
popular
among
culturebinarisms
and
similar
(reason-emotion;
hoary
"active-passive"
to thisveryday
whichpersistsin our thinking
nature;light-darkness),
of it,is hardlyknownto thebiblical
despiteFreud'scarefulquestioning
narrator.
And I do notmeanjust thesurfacefact,wellpublicizedbynow,that
thewomenin Genesis(as in Judges),to theextentthattheyfigurein
what is, afterall, a male-oriented
are, in a sense,"phallic
narrative,
withoutanyjudgmentalconwomen"- if the termis used neutrally,
of theplot,exerting
notations.
Theytakean activepartin theunfolding
(Sarah) to the
authorityin various ways,fromthe confrontational
devious (Rachel), and fromthe self-centered
(Tamar) to the othercentered(Rebecca). In a way,thesewomenillustratethe complementarityimpliedin the Garden of Eden story,wherewhatMan (Adam)
the
failedto findamongtheanimalsof thefield(thereby
necessitating
creationof Woman[Eve]) is denotedby the wonderfully
oxymoronic
of this
translation
expression'ezerkenegdo(Gen. 2:20). The traditional
the
two
between
balanced
tension
misses
the
phrase,"helpmeet",sorely
sides of the coin. The latteris even missingin PhyllisTrible'swellto it"(1978,
"A companioncorresponding
correction:
intendedfeminist
ideational
as
well
as
lexical
the
compact89) hardlypreserves original's
it is bestrenness.Literallymeaning"assistanceadversarialto him/it",

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JSQ 1

"AndRebeccaLovedJacob",ButFreudDid Not

85

or "counterbalance".6
deredas "counterpart"
Indeed,thisexpression
but equal", ideallygiving
of "different
maybe the earliestintimation
each otherin whateverway,
the two gendersfreereinto complement
unhamperedby any normativeexpectations.
takesa further
does notstophere.Biblicalnarrative
Butthefreedom
steptowardsubtlycrossingtheboundarieswithinthesame gender,so
lose theirmeaning.We havealreadyseen
definitions
thatstereotypical
how Esau, the hairy,ostensiblyvirileman of the field,is cast in the
Isaac's
vis--vishisfather.
femaleroleof the"nourisher"
(traditionally)
critichim
what
lose
makes
on theotherhand,
contemporary
blindness,
the
in
male
"sense"
ismconsidersthemajor
scopic
sexuality
operative
he has recourseto the "other"senses,those
or thevisual.Predictably,
thatmake up femalesexuality- touchand smell(Irigaray1977).
Whenit comesto Jacob,theclues are moreobviousbut also more
withrespectto Esau
Jacob'scharacterization
complex.Traditionally,
to the polarizationof cultureand nature(Hendel
has been attributed
1989,128 et passim). But rarelyhas it been observedthat this dichotomyoverlapswithanotherone thatof maleand female.The tent
it is also theinnerspace
is notonlytheabode of thecivilizedshepherd,
often
tellsus (see thetent
text
so
as
the
and
mothers
wives,
occupiedby
of Sarah/Rebecca
above;and cf.Judges5:24). Jacob,then,growsup in
frombirthfemalefeatures.
therealmof thefeminine,
(Would
exhibiting
with the
we go too far to associate his "hairlessness/smoothness"
of Eve's serpent?Or in readingmetaphorically
"nakedness/craftiness"
thefemale"phallic
his fearful"but I am smooth"[27:11]as expressing
lack" postulatedby Lacan?) And, of course,he has his mother'sundividedlove. But whatkindof love is this?
Withthisquestion,we are back to the siblingissue and its genderrelatedimplications.On the surface,I said, the double birthmade
possiblea fairdivisionof parentallove.But thisdivisionis notsymmetrical,just as thetwinsare not identical.In a singleverse,masterfully
and the difference:
of both the similarity
controlled,we are informed
"Isaac lovedEsau becauseof thegamehe fedhim,and Rebeccaloved
Jacob"(25:28). Both parentslove,but onlyone of themloves unconas the suddenbreak in the syntacticparallelismforcefully
ditionally,
demonstrates.
("A mother'srelationto a son",saysFreud,"is altogether
themostfreefromambivalenceof all humanrelationthemostperfect,
6 I owe this suggestionto Prof. Steven Bowman, whose challengingarguments
inspiredsome of the ideas elaboratedhere.See also EverettFox's note to his translation of this phrase in his In the Beginning,New York: SchockenBooks, 1983:13.

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86

YaelS. Feldman

JSQ 1

mayyielda different
ships"[1932,133].)A contextualreading,however,
RebeccalovesJacobforhis
story.If Isaac lovesEsau forhis otherness,
as verse27 informs
sameness(he is a tent-dweller,
us). In otherwords,
are createdhereoutsidegenderlines,perhaps
difference
and similarity
in spite of them.Jacob,in short,fulfillsthe narrativefunctionof a
female.
One almost has the sense that beneaththe siblingrivalryof the
fraternal
twinstherelurksanotherancientsymbol- thatof the opratherthancompetewitheach other
posite-sextwins,who complement
Glenn
and
Glenn
(Glenn 1966;
1968)."Unique amongall androgynous
for
its
of oppositepersistence
throughtheages is the'identity'
symbols
sex twins",saysCarolynHeilbrun."Complementary,
theyseemto enbetween
them
human
(1973, 34). In the
compass
complete
possibility"
biblicalwords,"Male and femalecreatedhe them".
is also the cross-gender
qualityassociatedwithDionyAndrogyny
masks
the
who
and personalities
so that"to
sus, god
constantly
changes
him
we
must
ourselves
our
controlled,
comprehend
give up
socially
desirablesexuallimitations"
(Rosenmeyer1968,154). Masqueradeand
are theartsof Rebecca and Jacob.And Jacobis the one who
trickery
will go on to experiencea lifeof "completehumanpossibility"- of
love and pain, of physicallabor and wily survival,of escape and
of weaknessand endurance.He is as closeas theHebrew
confrontation,
tradition
has evercometo a representation
of androgyny,
an androgyny
father"
thatwas made possibleby a "pleasantbut somewhatshiftless
mother".
and a "doting,energeticand domineering
These last characterizations
come fromPeterGay's biographyof
Freud (1988, 11); one can onlyimaginehow littleFreud cared to be
remindedof them.7
7 I am delightedto findthat Yerushalmiconcurs (at least partially,since he focuses mainlyon the father-son
relationship)withmytacitassumptionthatthisfamilial dynamicis typicallyJewish:"In these aspects the relationshipseems almost to
follow an archetypeof the relationsbetweenimmigrantJewishfathersand their
But
talentedsons in moderntimes.All such sons have been,in a sense,father-slayers.
unlikethePrimevalfatherof Freudianmythology,
theseJewishfathershave been more
than willing victims, eager to be slain" (1991, 63; italics added). Although
Yerushalmi'sexhaustiveargumenthas convincedme about the Jewishidentityof
It
somewhatdifferently.
Freud'sfather,I see the problematicsof the son's Jewishness
seemsto me thatthe recentpreoccupationwithFreud's identityis totallymisplaced.
The question should be not whetherFreud was or was not a "godless Jew"(Gay
1987), nor whetherhe has or has not profitedfromthe Kabbalistic or Talmudic
techniquesinheritedfromtheJewishtradition(Bakan 1958; Frieden1990),but rather
of humannature.It is in the
the"identity"of his teaching,of his basic understanding
choice of his models that his ambivalenceis most palpable. For despite his early

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JSQ 1

"AndRebecca Loved Jacob", But Freud Did Not

87

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