Book Report: The Akedah
22 August 2008, 7:29 AM
I ILL’ed The Akedah, by Louis A. Berman, because I am just a trifle obsessed with the story, and I had hoped that it was a fairly comprehensive survey of interpretations and versions in popular culture. In fact, it was a sloppy and silly book, poorly put together, with rotten images and a bad bibliography. Ah, well.
The thing I did find interesting was an analysis of a few different uses of the story by psychoanalysts. Mr. Berman is a retired psych prof, and this stuff is where he very clearly knows more than he is telling, which is a good thing. That is, of all the stuff he knows, he has chosen what to put in the book to make a coherent, readable and informative chapter. Hoorah! Well done, there. The fact that I don’t personally buy into the Freudian thing where we are profoundly and inevitably formed by the conflicts created by our attachments and jealousies as infants doesn’t matter; lots of people do and did, and just as the story of Oedipus is analyzed in those terms, the story of Abraham and Isaac is, too. Does this particular story strike deeply because it evokes the primal love and hate that children have for their fathers, or fathers for their children? Or, at least, is that part of it? It’s interesting to look at it from a Freudian point of view, and I must say that it’s largely plausible: the father and son leaving the mother for their journey; the father’s intent to kill his prized possession, his only son; the motif of things not spoken, or not spoken correctly; the thwarted intent, the murder projected onto the ram (caught, by the way, by its horns); and of course the ultimate reconciliation. Or, if you look at it the way I have come to, where the real ending is that they come home to find Sarah has died, that has Freudian implications, too.
The real question is this: given that I am a trifle obsessed with the Binding, and that I have a bit of a fondness for philosophy, should I attempt Fear and Trembling? I’ve never felt any desire to read Mr. Kierkegaard’s stuff, and I have some essays of Isaiah Berlin that I’ve been meaning to get through, and so far the Jewish sources tend to treat Fear and Trembling as bizarre and wrong-headed (if not actually illiterate), but, you know, it’s the Big Work on the topic, right?
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,