What Our Inner Lives Say About Our Relationships

An adult hipster son and his happy senior father in town, hugging.

Dr. Nathan Szajnberg, Former Sigmund Freud Professor of Psychoanalysis at Hebrew University, recounts how parents today can build towards the future in his latest book, Jacob and Joseph, Judaism’s Architects and the Birth of the Ego Ideal. Catch Dr. Szajnberg at the OFJCC on Thursday, March 7!

Jacob and Joseph, Judaism’s Architects was born of an invitation to be the visiting professor at the Ben Gurion University in the Negev. It was 2004, in the depths of bus bombings in Israel. Because of this, previous visiting professors declined their invitations. Chaim Belmaker, a prominent neuropsychiatrist and former Chairman of Psychiatry, asked me to come first as a guest of the Medical School and on a second invitation as a guest of the university.

The faculty and students of the university asked that as a psychoanalyst, I discuss the dreams of Jacob and Joseph.

To do so, I turned to the Hebrew original, reading it intensely, while consulting with six different English translations. Robert Alter, at Berkeley, was the most accurate. When I still had questions about meanings, I met with him to clarify the best translations.

But, a study of dreams became a larger study of the development of both Jacob and Joseph, of their inner lives. And a study of their inner lives blossomed into a study of their father-son relationship.

This father-son relationship differs starkly from the three prevalent (or infamous), Western father-son myths: Abraham/Isaac (a near sacrifice); Laius/Oedipus (a near sacrifice followed by patricide and incest) and God/Christ (a son sacrifice). I then explored what made this relationship different. And what made Joseph different than these other sons and from his own brothers.

This book was born of these studies.

Ultimately, I hope readers will learn about what might be useful for them as parents and even as children. The Jacob/Joseph ingredients helped create a more cohesive family that looked forward to the horizon of peoplehood and ultimately nationhood. This gives parents of today a sense of how to build towards a future.

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Nathan Szajnberg

Written by Nathan Szajnberg

Nathan Szajnberg, MD is a former Freud Professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He has written a book on Israeli soldiers in elite units entitled Reluctant Warriors and completed a study and a book about Ethiopian children in Kiryat Malachi. He has most recently authored JerusaLand: An Insignificant Death.

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