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Psychoanalysis and the Torah

Discover Your Hidden Agendas But Don't Despair

51 min

Class Summary:

Eliezer was sent by Abraham to Charan (modern day north-Syria) to bring back a wife for his only son Isaac. In this monumental marriage, the first Jewish shidduch, the entire Jewish future lay. Eliezer is given only one requirement: The girl must be a relative of Abraham. It is here that Eliezer is torn, because he too has a daughter, and as Abraham’s faithful and devoted servant, he can dream of nothing greater than Isaac becoming his son-in-law.

But Eliezer is not a relative of Abraham; on the contrary he is a descendant of Canaan, the son that Noah who was cursed. However hope is not lost. Abraham tells Eliezer that if the girl in Charan refuses to return to Israel, the condition is off, he is not responsible to fulfill his oath and bring a girl from Charan."

Thus, it is with mixed emotions that Eliezer embarks on his mission. His profound devotion to Abraham wants him to succeed, but his own selfish hopes for his daughter undermine his mission. Yet, unlike Lot, Eliezer overcomes his inner inhibitions and succeeds in the mission placed upon him. Whereas Lot became paralyzed and had to be dragged out of Sodom, Eliezer smoothly and confidently succeeds remarkably well. It is clear that unlike Lot, Eliezer has resolved his own ambivalence and overcame his inner inhibitions. How?

We learned last week about the ambivalence and deep psychological conflict expressed by the cantorial shalsheles note. There is a shalsheles in Vayeira, and now there is another one in Chayei Sarah. In Vayeira, the torn character, the owner of the shalsheles, was Lot, in Chayei Sarah it is Eliezer, the servant of Abraham.

A powerful Chassidic insight teaches us the key to this type of self-transcendence. It also allows us to discover the patterns of psychoanalysis so prevalent in the book of Genesis.

Please leave your comment below!

  • IG

    Itche Gordon -2 years ago

    Ish vs Eved

    "vehoish meshtoe" 

    in posuk 21, 26, 29, 32  Eliezer referred to as "Ish", then it goes back to calling him "Eved"

    could u elaborate on that

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  • SM

    Sara Metzger -4 years ago

    It's amazing how Torah keeps getting better and better all the time. There's always a new aspect about it that I'm learning. Thoings I never thought about. Psychoanalisis in Torah. Yes of course it would in Torah. The layers and plots and sub plots in the Eliezar story and the explanations of how he thought, didn't think, didn't know he was thinking, realized what he was thinking is so true of our human experiences. I can so relate. I think we've all gone through this. Thank you as always for your ability to get the message through to me. 

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  • A

    Abbe -6 years ago

    יהי כנען עבד למו

    Wonderful Shiur Rabbi Jacobson, as usual.

    How ironic, that the very trait that Avraham Avinu invoked as the reason why Eliezer's daughter could not mary Yitzchok Avinu, was the very trait that the Torah emphasizes is Eliezer's eternal crowning achievment!

    Eliezer was ablle to take the curse and turn it into a great and beautiful blessing.

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  • Anonymous -6 years ago

    Shiur Chaye Soroh


    Excellent as usual, thanks so much! 

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  • R

    Rachel -10 years ago

    This helped me very much. Fantastic delivery as well. Thank you.

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  • Z

    zev -11 years ago

    spot on

    Great shiur on 'Psychoanalysis and the Torah', the Torah's repetition of Eliezer's story in coming to Rivka and his hidden agenda. In our very self aware society where people are more aware than ever before of 'issues', in part because of the plethora of psychologically oriented self help books which have made their way into the frum world, the psychologically sophisticated divrei Torah like yours, and all the info available online, still, even the smartest among us are prone to that lack of clarity which sets in perpetually in life situations. That is a key power of our era of the yetzer hara I believe. Fuzzy thinking which leads to avoidance, minimizing, and other defense mechanisms. The degree to which dynamics are hidden and avoided, is the degree of their power, as you said in the shiur. This is one of the key aspects which ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) addresses, which I use.


    Half of a given therapy's effectiveness comes from fleshing out, verbalizing, and becoming clear on dynamics whose power comes from their vagueness and lack of definition. The most powerful therapy happens when it provides a space for a person to get to their own clarity, to have things looked at in the light of day with a therapist who gets what is being avoided and can bring the person to that awareness gradually. Sometimes not by saying it directly because often they are defended against it and won't acknowledge it, which is why it remained vague. Good therapeutic relationships loosen defenses significantly in a way that other relationships do not, so that people can verbalize what they couldn't when left to their own devices. Our insights and interpretations as therapists are great but never as powerful as one that is home grown and arrived at natively, like when Eliezer realized what was going on unconsciousy in his involvement in preventing the shidduch with Rivka. Through verbalizing.


    Thanks for the shiur and spot on, high quality Torah.





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  • R

    Reuben -11 years ago

    pshat in the midrash
    Great shiur as always!!! Although at a pshat level there is the difficulty that letter vav should have been missing the first time the story is told when eliezer actually proposed to avraham that yitzchak marry his daughter, according to our deeper understanding of the episode how do we understand rashi/the midrash that eliezer ACTUALLY asks avraham? Surely it is more of a self revelation rather than an actualised request? Thank for to everyone who contributes to and helps maintain this website!

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    • A

      Anonymous -11 years ago

      Re: pshat in the midrash
      Dear Reuben,

      Great question. Yet, there is no contradiction here.

      Of course, Eliezer asked Abraham if Yitzchak can become the soulmate of his daughter, and Abraham declined. This was before the entire mission. The issue we explained is something else: Eliezer knew that he wanted Yitzhak for his daughter; but he was initially unaware of the fact that this desire is playing a role in the very mission to find a partner for Yitzchak. Eliezer might have thought that in the past he professed such a desire, but now he is past it. Yet in reality this desire still simmered beneath his conscious and, in a subtle, unconscious way, undermined the mission. Until he acknowledged this truth, and all fell into place.

      Is it clear?

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  • M

    Malka -12 years ago

    now I get it!
    I  have never heard an explanation of the significance of the 2 pieces of "yachatz" before, aside from the obvious practical explanation, and it was over 35 years ago that the Rebbe so lovingly pulled me out of the cold secular world into the warm world of Torah though Chabad.  And this explanation, WOW!!!  I'm a really big fan  of YY Jacobson, but sometimes, like now, he's over the top!

    Let's give the Rebbe the ultimate birthday present this Yud Aleph Nissan (or even before...)--let's get our act together, totally, and end this galus.  Oh, to be reunited with the Rebbe, and to offer the korban Pesach in the third, final, and everlasting Bais Hamigdash!!

     A kosher and freilichen Pesach to everyone!!  

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  • TG

    tzipi glick -13 years ago

    Even Lubavitchers have to remember this!
    beautiful essay. made me cry. WE ARE ONE! And each jew is so precious and essential. So we all have to REALLY accept and love every Jew and understand that a secular kibbutznik or a totally assimilated Jew in LA is doing a mitzva that is so dear to Hash-m.

    Thank you Rabbi jacobson.

    Have a wonderful Pesach!

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  • :

    :) -13 years ago

    To Yehudis
    You make a good point "tis the children" who bring the afikoman.

    V'haishiv lev avot al banim. Its happening.

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  • Y

    Yehudis -13 years ago

    thank you Rabbi Jacobson
    Beautiful.And if I may bring to front the fact that it is the chilren that bring back the afikoman to the seder table.. The Rebbe has given the job over to each one of us,even if one may feel like he is much too young,inexpirienced or ignorant to inspire a jewish brother or sister to come back,remember it tis the children ,that have sincerety and pure emuna ,that do the job.May we indeed get the "dessert" now!

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  • LW

    Leah Weintraub -13 years ago

    Thank You
    Thank you Rabbi Jacobson, for saying this, as it is, with such gentility and softness and kindness; with factual evidence and historical proof. You are very fortunate that you can call on the Rebbe's life and his teachings to inspire and educate. We are very fortunate that you and all the Chabad Shluchim around the world, are his true emissaries. May all who WILL eat of the Afikomen this Pesach reach deep into what you say here, and continue to use the larger piece of the "puzzle" to bring our people, and all mankind, home. L 'shana haba'a b'Yerushalayim.

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    • M

      Michale -13 years ago

      Re: Thank You
      [QUOTE]L 'shana haba'a b'Yerushalayim.

      [/QUOTE]לשנה הבאה בירושלים I am here already! A lot American are coming this summer too.

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  • IA

    Isaac Ashkenazy -13 years ago

    Forgetting Zion
    Very inspirational commentary, even emotional - thanks. Small/big reminder - that while a percentage of European Jewry and the historical "emanicipation" distanced Zion from their hearts; from Morrocco and all along North Africa, from Palestine, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, Persia, South East Asia all the way to Shanghai - the Jewish community dedicatingly and bitterly "wept for Zion". What "modernity" might have distanced in the "mind" - the heart and soul still remembers - if not today - then tomorrow. (Not forgetting the multitude that joined other streams of religion and spirituality). And for those distanced souls - with "open hearts" let us leave the entrance to our home ajar on Seder Night. For eventually it will be "in each individuals" "humility" and "un-egoistical love" (that we follow ardently for thousands of years since the Exodus) that will eventually draw back our "not-so-distanced" brethrens in soul. It wont be the physical time that will correct - but the Creator and his spiritual love that he endows us with! Chag Sameach!

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  • S

    Silvia -13 years ago

    two halves
    Heartwarming, healing message. Beautiful!

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  • B

    Barry -13 years ago

    Divided matzah
    I enjoyed your essay. I believe that people in both halves need to try to respect and understand each other, because the world is a tough place, and united we will stand, divided we will fall.

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  • C

    CHAIM -13 years ago

    Music and more .
    Would it be possible to announce every week the names of the nigun/song & CD album.. at the credits lines at the end.

    Also - Demons, skeletons, dark shadows ... just in time for Haloween.

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  • EJ

    Esther Jacobs -13 years ago

    Where were the anecdotes ?
    I love these shiurim. Very profound and always a new twist of insight. I also appreciate the jokes to open up our minds in the beginning of the shiurim.

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  • Y

    yosef -13 years ago

    gr8 shiur
    thank you so much for the gr8 shiurim
    i really enjoy listening to them as they answer alot of questions
    the shiur is also very good for me to refer to when i ''deliver'' my shiurim for my chabad house

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  • A

    Anonymous -13 years ago

    mr cameraman back off a bit!

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  • M

    Michoel -13 years ago

    Found the sicha
    Likutey Sichos, vol 30, pg 90-96

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  • M

    Michoel -13 years ago

    Sicha Source
    Please post in which sefer the Rebbe's sicha is printed. Just mentioning the year and parsha does not help. Great shiur. Thanks.

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  • E

    Elki -13 years ago

    Great shiur
    I enjoyed the class immensely.
    It is an interesting phenomenon that a person,Eliezer subconsciously wants Rivkah to marry his son, can also apply within one person.
    How many people think or claim that they want to attain a specific goal in life; get married, pursue a degree, get a job, etc...and they keep derailing themselves and sabotaging any chance of success. Psychoanalytically, one would say that such person really does not want to attain what he claims he does. He is not aware of his unconscious desire, not to succeed. Clearly, he wants to continue the side benefits he reaps from stagnation. Once a person faces the truth and stops making excuses, but owns up, that, no, he doesn't want to get married....only then when those obstacles are removed, might he, or she reflect on the truth, succeed and find happiness in life.

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  • SM

    Sonya Matsui -13 years ago

    thanks and suggestion
    Who can sufficiently praise the lectures? This is computerdom at its best - kivayochol making kodesh out of the "behamiyut".
    May I respectfully suggest that the use of "unconscious" be replaced by "subconscious"?
    Thank you and blessings....

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  • KT

    Kayo, Tokyo -13 years ago

    Baruch HaShem

    My Shalsheles is I have so much to Torah study I love to do, and can not negrect the study, but not much time left for other things I have to take care of.

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Chayei Sarah Class

Rabbi YY Jacobson

  • December 18, 2013
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  • 15 Tevet 5774
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Dedicated by David and Eda Schottenstein in the loving memory of Alta Shula Swerdlov And in the merit of Yetta Alta Shula, "Aliya," Schottenstein

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