An incredibly insightful, beautifully written book which not only addresses the question of whether Yosef was on the spectrum, but invites you to be curious about individuals differences. Samuel J Levine evokes the thought that if individuals differences are understood not only by themselves but also by others then difference rather than being seen as something of a negative, becomes a positive attribute.
…Not because it has anything to do with what you’re doing today, but precisely because it doesn’t. Sometimes we have to take a trip to somewhere else… a detour… a backroad…. or an excursion to get our minds out of our daily COVID funk to give us a different perspective on life.
I don’t know about your upbringing, but I spent enough time in church to hear the story of Joseph’s coat of colors many times and how his brothers sold him into slavery. Never, though, have I seen this story through the lens that Joseph may have been Autistic until now. This exploration shows how disabilities and diversity can chemically react with the heat of adversity to create the powerful energy that saved two ancient adversarial cultures from starvation and famine.
Rabbi Dr. Avraham Twerski, z”l Passes and The World is a Darker Place
The world is a darker place tonight with the passing of a Torah luminary whose gift was in keeping Jewish people alive even with they themselves no longer had the will to live.
Rabbi Dr. Avraham Joshua Twerski z”l passed away Sunday (Jan. 31, 2021) at Laniado Hospital in Netanya at age 90 after being hospitalized last week after contracting COVID-19.
A world renown Torah personality, “Rabbi Abe” was a shochet, a mohel, a composer of niggunim, a talmid chacham, an ordained rabbi and a medical doctor — a psychiatrist — specializing in addictions.
The son of the Hornsteipler Rebbe, Rabbi Twerski received his own smicha at the age of seventeen, and then assisted his father as assistant rabbi in his birthplace of Milwaukee.
Although he is best known for his psychiatric knowledge and activities, Rabbi Dr. Twerski z”l was also a tremendous Torah scholar, widely respected for his deep devotion to the Chassidut of his ancestors and the breadth of his learning.
In this fascinating study, law professor and Hebrew scholar Samuel Levine looks at Joseph from the Bible with a fresh perspective. I found his arguments well-reasoned and fascinating, but I also understood some of the pushback the book received. Can any modern-day person bestow an autism diagnosis on someone who lived and died thousands of years ago?
The book fascinated me because I am autistic and Jewish, and because it’s interesting to think about how an autistic person might have appeared to others in the long centuries and millennia before the condition was medically recognized and named. Although “presumed diagnosis of the dead” is inherently an uncertain endeavor, it is fascinating to see how the author (a Jewish scholar who is also familiar with autism and its sensory/neurological manifestations) finds many commonalities between the Biblical figure of Joseph (as depicted in Scripture and in Hebrew tradition) and modern-day people on the autism spectrum (in terms of shared traits, inclinations, sensitivities, aversions, and so on). Samuel Levine’s book makes me wish that we could go back in time, present the Biblical Joseph with a copy of the book (translated into Hebrew or Egyptian) and ask him if Levine got it right! (I suspect that the answer would be “Yes — is he, too, a dreamer of accurate dreams?” But of course we will never know for sure). The book may be very encouraging to autistics who are Jews, and to their parents/teachers/fellow congregants/congregational leaders.
Talli Rosenbaum on love and marriage and the joys and challenges of intimacy.
“Sex is not something you ‘have’ but rather an expression of an intimate and erotic energy that a couple mutually shares.” This quote, from the recently released book, I Am For My Beloved: A Guide to Enhanced Intimacy for Married Couples by co-authors Talli Rosenbaum and David Ribner, reflects the theme that a passionate marriage is about cultivating a loving, emotionally intimate relationship.
In this episode of Intimate Judaism, Rabbi Scott Kahn interviews co-host Talli Rosenbaum, and her co-author Dr. David Ribner about the book, which helps couples improve both their emotional and physical intimate lives. Join Rabbi Scott, David, and Talli, as they discuss the challenges of writing a book about sex for Orthodox Jewish couples, the topics they chose, and the book’s relevance for Jewish couples, regardless of their background.
Finally, listen here as Talli and David offer suggestions for sustaining passion in a long term, monogamous marriage.
Rabbi Simcha Feuerman ● NEFESH The International Network of Orthodox Mental Health Professionals
Imagine one day, on the eve of the Pesach Seder, Eliyahu HaNavi issued a special hora’at Sha’ah, commanding all the Jews to eat a Ham and Cheese sandwich while reclining at the Seder instead of the usual Matzah and Maror. Even the most devout believers would have great difficulty fulfilling this unusual directive without choking on their food. This is what marital intimacy can be like for a newlywed religious couple. All of the sudden, that which is taboo, is now permitted and even an obligation!
Ever since the Bible was written there have been attempts to understand the characters and events of its narrative. Indeed, in The Ancient Commentary on the Bible (1993) Hananel Mack suggested that as long as there has been Bible, there has been commentary, whether Deuteronomy commenting on the preceding books of the Torah, or Psalms and Chronicles on earlier sections of the Bible. The Apocryphal books continued the tradition, as did Philo’s Bible commentary (first century Alexandria), Josephus, then the many forms of Midrash, and since Saadiah Gaon (10th century Babylon), a steady flow of authors, the most known among Jewish readers being Rashi (11th century France), Ibn Ezra (12th century Spain) and Ramban (13th century Spain), and most recently Nehama Leibowitz, who have all published commentaries on the Bible text. While each commentator may ask some unique questions, many clearly duplicate each other. How is it that each commentator emerges with different answers, and that often they are distinctive to that author? The answer must lie not only in each new questioner emerging from a particular cultural background but also having different responses that are suitable for their readership: Rashi writing at the time of the Crusades and the destruction of Jewish communities, Ibn Ezra having travelled the world and seen many cultures, etc.
I Am for My Beloved, which focuses on married couples within the religiously observant community, is a book that is larger than itself. David Ribner and Talli Rosenbaum have found a way to discuss subjects that were once taboo and present them in a clear, direct and sensitive way to couples of all ages and religious orientations who want to enhance their intimate sexual relationships.
The authors of I Am for My Beloved make a wonderful contribution to the literature on the meaning of the sexual relationship in marriage. They begin with a discussion of the meaning of intimacy and how it is understood within the marriage relationship. They also suggest ways to achieve intimacy in the context of a healthy sexual relationship.
What is autism? Although autism is ultimately a diagnostic category, people who exhibit symptoms we now label as autistic are not restricted to the modern era (see e.g. Houston & Frith, 2000). Detailed historical analyses of the concept of autism have described a constellation of symptoms that were formally delineated and medicalized in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, but pre-existed contemporary nosologies (e.g. Hacking, 2009; Nadesan, 2005; Waltz, 2013).
People experienced as “different” in their communication and social pragmatics have troubled normative expectations across recorded history. Samuel Levine’s Was Yosef on the Spectrum: Understanding Joseph Through Tora, Midrash, and Classical Jewish Sources argues that Joseph, son of Jacob and Rachel from the Book of Genesis, was possibly autistic. Diagnosing people retrospectively as autistic raises complex “hermeneutic” or interpretive questions, including the possibility that our selective readings and attributions of recorded histories reveal more about our current concerns than past realities. Yet, while acknowledging this post-modern possibility of non-retrievable origins, the hermeneutic tradition offers a dialogic framework for understanding the mingling of the past and the present using the idea of a textual fusions of horizons (Gadamer, 2011). Roughly, the hermeneutic tradition holds that each reading of a historical text links the past and present, with the potential for a better understanding of the (“intersubjective” or social) self and its project forward. It is in the spirit of this hermeneutics that Levine’s text finds contemporary relevance.