Was Yosef on the Spectrum – new review

Professor Ian Hale, PhD, FCIS ● Author of Asperger’s, Autism & You and The Insider’s Guide to Autism and Asperger’s

Samuel Levine is a prominent New York Law Professor and foremost Judaic scholar. He has written a unique and important book. It conjoins both factual Biblical history with modern neuroscience and psychology to tell us part of the yet unacknowledged story of the history of Autism. This book is special, it must be read.

Titled Was Yosef on the Spectrum?, published by Urim Publications, he combines his extensive knowledge of Rabbinical commentary up to the present day; with the Torah, the Talmud, and Autism producing a unique insight linking our past with the future. The Yosef referred to is the one from the book of Genesis.

Yosef was youngest son of Jacob, also known as Israel. He is best known as the wearer of The Coat of Many Colours, given to him by his father as a mark of his special status of wisdom from his youngest years and as the interpreter of dreams, much to the envy of his older brothers who plotted against him and sold him into slavery. After enduring many hardships Yosef rose to find favor with Pharaoh to become his chief adviser and wisest counselor. He was the visionary who saw the significance of his dream of seven lean cows consuming seven fat ones. He told Pharaoh it prophesized seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine throughout the lands of Egypt. Taking his advice, Pharaoh was careful to store the seven years of good harvests which saved his Kingdom from the famine Yosef had foretold.

During his life Yosef showed many of the now-recognized characteristics of an Autistic person. His determination, his special ability to identify and focus on important things, while being poor at the mundane and social aspects of life, which caused him many problems-but he never gave up, eschewing love of power, thinking always of the common good above himself. His strong sense of compassion (he forgave his brothers and made sure his family was looked after), his love of nature and care for people and animals, his fearlessness, his strong sense of justice and total unfailing loyalty to friends, even in adversity, and perhaps most tellingly, his “different brain” which allowed him to see what others couldn’t. It is precisely those characteristics which, today are so sought after by major corporations like Microsoft, IBM and SAP. Autistic people are special with their special, “mystic” skills and non-standard hyper-connection to creation and intelligences.

In recognizing this, we all owe a special debt to Prof Levine. This not just an account of the past, but a proven understanding of the present and a prophesy of Prof Levine himself to us all-here and now of a potentially glorious future. It is also a warning against ignoring what God has given to us with his gift of Autism to those He has chosen.

It is with real joy that I recommend this book without reservation to every reader who seeks true knowledge on all of the many subjects covered. It is a story of triumph against seemingly impossible odds (something all too many Autistic people and their families face today) and a message of hope. Truly one of the most outstanding reads of this, new century. It deserves seven stars.

Was Yosef on the Spectrum

Steven M. Eidelman

“Professor Samuel Levine’s book, Was Yosef on the Spectrum?, is fascinating and compelling.  For readers not knowledgeable about people with disabilities, Levine perfectly summarizes the work we do,  explaining that “[i]t is not uncommon for individuals with disabilities, once they receive the appropriate services, structure, and supports, to be able to exercise the talents they posses and achieve the goals that would otherwise continue to elude them.”  In addition, through his close study of Joseph, Levine shows how characteristics of individuals with autism can often be both limiting and sources of strengths.  In short, Levine’s thesis is quite credible, and I recommend his book.”

Steven M. Eidelman is the H. Rodney Sharp Professor of Human Services Policy and Leadership; and Faculty Director of The National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities

COULD JOSEPH BE ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM? – new review of Was Yosef on the Spectrum?

Different Brains

THE STORY OF JOSEPH

The story of Joseph (the title of my book uses the Hebrew “Yosef”) presents a fascinating and memorable narrative, which has been both the focus of careful study for countless generations of readers and scholars of the Bible, as well as the subject of a wide range of art and literature, from the visual arts to novels to Broadway.  Much of this interest, among both religious adherents and broader culture, likely stems in large part from the challenging questions that arise in the course of the story.

Joseph’s behaviors, interpersonal relationships, personal journey, and development are often difficult to understand. At times, they even seem to defy explanation as he faces concomitant and interconnected challenges, opportunities, and experiences, often at once, both surprising success and unexpected failure. Over the years, I have read the biblical story of Joseph numerous times, and I have studied the text through the prism of the works of classical Jewish commentators, spanning thousands of years and geographical locations across the world.

COULD JOSEPH BE ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM?

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The Autism Question and Beyond: Rereading the Joseph Saga

Yitzchak Blau ● Lehrhaus

Most readers of Samuel J. Levine’s Was Yosef on the Spectrum? Understanding Joseph Through Torah, Midrash, and Classical Jewish Sources will likely focus their energies on the question in the book’s title. Is it appropriate to attribute autism to one of our biblical heroes? Are the author’s arguments for such a thesis persuasive? Yet it would be a shame if that issue exhausted discussion about a volume which deals with many significant interpretative questions regarding the Joseph narrative. Levine, a professor of Law and Director of the Jewish Law Institute at the Touro Law Center, has done an impressive amount of research, combing the traditional commentaries and midrashim for relevant material, and reading the verses quite carefully. Following up on his footnotes provides ample reward, particularly since Levine addresses the later chapters in Genesis which many Humash students do not get to. After evaluating the central thesis, this review will then explore some important ideas in Levine’s work.

To read the entire review, click here.

Was Yosef on the Spectrum – New Review

Michele Justic ● Five Towns Jewish Times

The story of Yosef can be a puzzling one. The cast is set of one of our Avos, Yaakov, and his 12 sons — all presumed to be tzadikim, before shifting to Mitzrayim where the greatest leaders in Egypt get mixed into the sibling rivalry madness. According to the literal interpretation, these tzadikim certainly seem like bad boys, in effect trying to kill their brother and deceive their father.

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Featured – The Queen and the Spymaster

Hadassah Magazine’s Guide to Jewish Literature

The Queen & The Spymaster is a fast-paced tale of palace intrigue that tells the story of the unlikely champions of Ancient Persia, and of a thousand-year vendetta that presages modern historical events in Iran and Afghanistan. It is a thrilling novel, telling the biblical Esther story you never knew.

Straight from the book – Was Yosef on the Spectrum

“Pharaoh realizes that, given Yosef’s self-absorption, his lack of social skills, and his inability to navigate social challenges, Yosef is vulnerable to the maneuverings of those who are more clever, cunning, and calculating. Pharaoh has maintained power through shrewd utilization of his formidable political savvy, but Yosef is particularly ill-suited to deal with the bare-knuckled world of politics and the sharks who will be looking for every opportunity to hurt him – and possibly, by extension, cause harm to Pharaoh himself. Pharaoh preempts these threats by giving Yosef a new and honorable name – and with it a new persona – as well as a wife, who can help protect him from the attacks and advances of others. Significantly, Pharaoh selects a woman who is from a distinguished family – possibly the family of Potiphar – who not only bestows further honor on Yosef by virtue of her pedigree, but who is presumably familiar with the intrigue and machinations of royal politics, and along with her family will be able to anticipate and help ward off challenges to Yosef.  With these in place, Yosef is finally safe to go out on his own, leaving the protective watch of Pharaoh and traveling throughout the Land of Egypt.  

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Was Yosef on the Spectrum – Review

Rabbi Dr. Geoffrey (Rav Gedaliah) Haber

Professor Levine makes a cogent case for Yosef (Joseph) being on the ASD spectrum, albeit, high functioning. His analysis of the biblical and secondary sources makes a strong case (except in Chapters 9 and 10) for his argument. According to this analysis, Yosef  would be at the high functioning end of the ASD spectrum (formerly Asperger’s Syndrome) and his manifestation would change with maturity as noted in the book. Whatever counterarguments might be made, it was fascinating to read about how many traits and challenges Yosef shared with “high-functioning” persons on the spectrum. I thought it was an insightful piece and I’ve recommended it to others. 

Rabbi Dr. Geoffrey (Rav Gedaliah) Haber is the Director of the Department of Spiritual Care in Baycrest, Toronto. He holds a BA, BA, MA, DMin, DD (Hon.), is a Certified Supervisor-Educator, Clinical Pastoral Education (CASC), Board Certified Chaplain (NAJC), Certified Spiritual Care Practitioner (CASC), Registered Psychotherapist (CRPO), and Adjunct Lecturer at Knox College, University of Toronto (TST).

Straight from the book – Was Yosef on the Spectrum

“The story of Yosef (Joseph) presents some of the most challenging questions of all biblical narratives. Yosef’s behavior, interpersonal relationships, and personal journey and development are often difficult to understand, and at times seem to defy explanation. Leading commentators are repeatedly puzzled both by Yosef’s actions and by the events that surround him: from Yosef’s bitter interchanges with his brothers, which his father Yaakov (Jacob) is apparently unable to mediate, to the events in the Land of Egypt, where Yosef finds both failure and remarkable success, to Yosef’s strange machinations, when his brothers travel to Egypt to purchase food and later settle in Egypt along with Yaakov.

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The Day I Met Father Isaac at the Supermarket

Dov Peretz Elkins ● Jewish Growth

Rabbi Jack Riemer is without doubt the most talented preacher in American Jewry. He has a knack of finding an idea where others cannot find a needle in a haystack. His homiletical eye is so well trained, that rabbis around the world rely on him for fresh ideas. This book is no exception – it is inspiring, funny, wise, and insightful. Read it over and over again.

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