Engaging with the Author: Samuel J. Levine

J.B. Holderness ● Yeshiva University Staff News

In December, Samuel J. Levine, Professor of law and director of the Jewish Law Institute at Touro College, published a book entitled Was Yosef on the Spectrum?: Understanding Joseph through Torah, Midrash, and Classical Jewish Sources. The book examines the behavior and relationships of Yosef through the lens of our modern understanding of autism. Our own cataloger Yosef Cohen submitted a review of the book to the author and received an appreciative response. The following are excerpts of the review and reply:

Y. Cohen:
Yosef is one of the most complicated of all the Torah personalities and this is reflected in the kaleidoscopic range of explanations given for his conduct and, most pertinently, his affect, at different stages of his life. One simple example: why, after the adverse reaction the telling of his first dream elicits from his brothers—their sheaves bowing to his—does Yosef proceed to share the contents of his second, which is even more provocative in its implications? Does he not know that he is making himself extremely unpopular, that, in fact, his brothers have come to hate him for the presumption and the grandiosity of his dreams?

Professor Levine addresses this and many other such questions and, while mining the full range of opinions to be found among the classical commentators, has produced what we might call a unitary theory of his own. Yosef was afflicted with a ‘condition’; Yosef was, in fact, on the spectrum!

S. Levine:
Thank you for your very kind and very thoughtful comments about my book. I would, of course, welcome more of your thoughts, as part of a formal essay or informally. In addition, as I mentioned, I am considering future projects exploring other figures, such as Yaakov, and I will welcome your thoughts on these ideas as well. For now, I look forward to keeping in touch and perhaps having a chance to meet in person at some point.


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