The Biblical Path to Psychological Maturity by Dr. Vivian Skolnick
Reviewed by Chava Pinchuck, Association of Jewish Libraries Reviews November/December 2015
Through looking at the weekly portion, the author “attempts to show that the Torah encapsulates a development growth pattern akin to human development. Each parasha is like watching a therapy session unfold.” Focusing on individuals at well as the nation as a whole, the “Biblical text becomes more than a historical account of compelling religious interest, but a modern instructive guide into the dynamics of human behavior.” Adam and Eve needed to learn about observing boundaries. Abraham harbors unconscious anger at Isaac for taking Sarah’s attention. Isaac, suffering from post-traumatic stress from the Akeidah, does not become a distinctive creative personality in his own right. Joseph is a model for the Freudian interpretations of dreams and received “the first psychoanalytic referral” when he was called on to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. Moses’ issues stem from his separation from his birth family, often displayed as inappropriate anger. By the last parasha, the Israelites have matured as a nation, having built self-esteem in their journey through the wilderness. Each discussion is preceded by a short summary of the weekly reading. A bibliography and a glossary of Hebrew terms are included.
Dr. Skolnick is a registered clinical psychologist and a psychoanalyst in private practice. Many of the essays are based on discussions at the Skolnicks’ Shabbat table. They are presented clearly and coherently, and Dr. Skolnick uses Jewish sources as well as the experience from her practice to illustrate her points. The entries are relatively short, perfect for sharing at your own Shabbat table. While there is a glossary for Hebrew terms in the book, a glossary of psychological terms would have been helpful to lay people. Those who are interested in the subject will find this an interesting and valuable resource; those who aren’t may deem some of the discussions as psychobabble, so if library patrons are interested in the psychological aspects of Torah, it is recommended.
The Biblical Path to Psychological Maturity is available here.