The Origins of Jewish Guilt: Psychological, Theological, and Cultural Perspectives
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Yes when it hopped away. Brinkley's seditious best of these symptoms, the singer finally managed to think like bookmarks, the pros and he needs your help. The focus of the Jewish mother stereotype that arose was based in a shift in economic circumstances of American Jews during the 20th century. American Jews were no longer struggling first generation immigrants, living in impoverished neighborhoods.
The "soldier woman" work ethos of Jewish women, and the levels of anxiety and dramatization of their lives, was seen as unduly excessive for lifestyles that had for middle-class Jews become far more secure and suburban by the middle of the century.
Jewish literature came to focus upon the differences between Jewish women and what Jews saw as being the various idealized views of American women, the "blonde bombshell", the "sex kitten", or the sweet docile "apple-pie" blonde who always supported her man. In contrast, Jewish writers viewed the still articulate and intelligent Jewish woman as being, by comparison, pushy, unrefined, and unattractive.
A Jewish mother was a woman who had her own ideas about life, who attempted to conquer her sons and her husband, and who used food, hygiene, and guilt as her weapons. Like Helmreich, Fishman observes that while it began as a universal gender stereotype, exemplified by Erik Erikson 's critique of "Momism" in and Philip Wylie 's blast, in his Generation of Vipers, against "dear old Mom" tying all of male America to her apron strings, it quickly became highly associated with Jewish mothers in particular, in part because the idea became a staple of Jewish American fiction.
In her essay "In Defense of the Jewish Mother", Zena Smith Blau defended the stereotype, asserting that the ends, inculcating virtues that resulted in success, justified the means, control through love and guilt.
Being tied to mamma kept Jewish boys away from "[g]entile friends, particularly those from poor, immigrant families with rural origins in which parents did not value education". She observes that there appears to have been no conscious effort on the part of screenwriters or film-makers to rewrite or change the stereotype, in pursuance of some revisionist agenda, but that it has simply fallen back a generation. One use of the Jewish mother stereotype-trope can be seen in the popular television program The Big Bang Theorywhich premiered inand was played by the character of Howard Wolowitz's mother who is only heard as a voice character.
Kapporot is a Jewish ritual practiced by some Jews on the eve of Yom Kippur. The person swings a live chicken or a bundle of coins over one's head three times, symbolically transferring one's sins to the chicken or coins—a form of guilt offering.
The chicken is then slaughtered and donated to the poor for consumption at the prefast meal. A full understanding of the relationship between guilt and sin necessitates a discussion of conscience—broadly defined as an aptitude, faculty, intuition, or judgment of the intellect that distinguishes right from wrong.
In psychological terms conscience leads to feelings of remorse when a human commits actions that go against their moral values and to feelings of rectitude or integrity when actions conform to such norms. Did the ancient Hebrews possess such a faculty? We have little direct information about conscience in the ancient Hebrews, but some understanding may be gleaned by examining surrounding cultures such as Greeks.
While we have little historical evidence of direct contact between the Ancient Greeks and early Jewish culture, it is likely that such contact occurred. Doddsin Greeks and the Irrational, drew upon ancient Greek literature to examine the mind of the ancient Greeks. In the Iliad, the first clear picture of the early Greek religion, Agamemnon offers an apology for compensating himself for the loss of his mistress by stealing the mistress of Achilles.
The Origins of Jewish Guilt: Psychological, Theological, and Cultural Perspectives
He asserts that he was not himself the cause of this act but it was due to divine intervention by Erinys, a goddess, who removed his understanding. There are numerous other passages in Homer in which unwise and unaccountable conduct is similarly attributed to supernatural agencies of one kind or another.
Dodds contended that these explanations are not instances of poetic license but are real psychological phenomena; ancient Greek psychology differed from that of contemporary Western culture.
This perception influenced, among others, Julian Jaynes in his groundbreaking study The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, and more recently Antonio Damasio in The Feeling of What Happens, two later authors who drew upon Dodds extensively. Dodds maintained that a transition occurred from shame culture, which characterized the worldview of the Iliad, to guilt culture, which emerges in later Greek civilization.
This is a central idea for which Dodds presented a persuasive case, although his account suffers somewhat from being rather strongly influenced by Freudian psychoanalytic theory, which appeared more securely founded in science in the midth century than it does today.
Dodds described an increasing sophistication in their development, from a conception of the world and the moral order as arbitrary and subject to the whim of the gods, through to a later understanding of the limits of moral responsibility. Like many other cultures, Greece and Rome did not use distinct terms for what we now call shame and guilt, and they appear to recognize one concept where we recognize two.
This view, however, presupposes a natural correspondence among psychological ideas across linguistic and social boundaries. Thus, the Greek term we customarily translate as shame is held to match, more or less, the English concept, unless perhaps, in the absence of a word for guilt, Greek shame had a somewhat wider extension so as to include some or all of the modern notion of guilt.
Alternatively, the ancient Greeks simply failed to achieve a notion of guilt, which is in turn a sign of the poverty of their moral vocabulary and their incomplete psychological development.
There is no Hebrew term in the Old Testament that is a linguistic equivalent for the classical Greek term suneidesis suneivdhsior awareness. The lack of a developed concept of conscience in the Old Testament, as is seen later in Paul, may be due to the worldview of the Hebrews. Consciousness of life was of a relationship between God and a covenant community rather than an autonomous self-awareness between a person and his or her world.
The only usage of suneidesis suneivdhsi in the canonical section of the Septuagint is in Ecclesiastes Rabbinic Judaism and the Dead Sea Scrolls are consistent with the Old Testament in their lacking a vocabulary of conscience. The soul nephesh and the spirit ruach in the Old Testament refer not to immaterial entities capable of surviving the body after death, but to a whole spectrum of physical and psychological functions.
These terms refer not to wholly different substances, each with its own distinct functions, but to the interrelated and integrated capacities and functions of the same person. The fact that a person is comprised of various parts which are integrated, interrelated, and functionally united, undermines the notion of the soul being distinct from the body and thus removing the basis for the belief in the survival of the soul at the death of the body.
The heart in Biblical thought is seen as the spring of individual life, the ultimate source of the physical, intellectual, emotional, and volitional energies, and, consequently, the part of the person that normally has direct contact with God. The recesses of the heart contain the thoughts, the attitudes, the fears, and the hopes that determine the personality or character of the individual.
- Stereotypes of Jews
The emotions of the heart are portrayed vividly and concretely. The heart is said to fail Gen The state of the heart dominates every manifestation of life. Health is affected by the condition of the heart. Sometimes, physical organs can refer to something similar to conscience: Kidneys have a similar meaning. Critics, such as Malina and Rohrbaughasserted that scholars have confused shame and guilt, and have attributed guilt to the ancient Hebrews when they were actually referring to shame.
No, these texts do not indicate that ancient people could be overcome by guilt. They indicate that people could be overcome by shame. Understanding the difference between guilt and shame is crucial here. Guilt is an internal reaction to a violation of one's own conscience. It depends on the existence of an individual conscience—something Middle Easterners do not have. Shame is an internalization of the moral judgment that comes from outside, from the group.
In shame cultures it is the group that has the conscience, not the individual. Thus when a group accuses one of violating its standards, deep shame is the result. That is what we read about in the Bible see 1 Cor. So finally, is there a relationship between Jewish practice and the development of guilt? We would argue for this possibility. Jewish exegesis involves pouring over texts and evaluating.
The Hebrew word for prayer tefillah comes from the root fallal, to evaluate. The Hebrew root means to think, entreat, judge, or intercede; and the reflexive means to judge oneself, and to pray. This may be conducive psychologically to the development of guilt. How, then, did this bromide about Jewish guilt attain its status as a distinctive Jewish disposition? The Jewish mother or wife stereotype is one of the most common stereotypes and stock characters employed by Jewish comedians and authors whenever they discuss actual or fictional situations involving their mothers or other females in their lives who possess mother-like qualities.
The stereotype comprises of a nagging, overprotective, manipulative, controlling, smothering, and overbearing mother or wife, who persists in interfering in her children's lives long after they have become adults and can care for themselves.
In Israel, where the geographical background of Jews is more diverse, the same stereotypical mother is referred to as the Polish mother.
Helmreich correctly noted that the attributes of a Jewish mother—overprotection, pushiness, aggression, and guilt-inducement—are found in mothers of other ethnicities, from Italians through Blacks to Puerto Ricans.
The association of this otherwise gender stereotype with Jewish mothers in particular, according to Helmreich, derives from the emphasis that is traditionally placed by Judaism on the home and the family, and on the role of the mother within that family. The Jewish mother stereotype originated among the American Jewish community, while its predecessors derived from Eastern Europe.
This stereotype was further developed by the poverty and hardship of Eastern European Jews immigrating into the United States during the period —, when one of the largest waves of such immigration occurredwhere the requirements of hard work by the parents were transmitted to children via guilt: Hartman and Hartman speculated that the root of the stereotype is in the self-sacrifice of first-generation immigrants, unable themselves to take full advantage of American education themselves, and the consequent transference of their aspirations, for success and social status, from themselves to their children.
A Jewish mother derives vicarious social status from the achievements of her children, where she is unable to achieve such status herself. Although this stereotype was regularly portrayed in American cinema from the s onwards, according to Alisa Lebowin the late 20th century and the 21st century the stereotype of the Jewish mother has all but disappeared from movies. The Jewish mother stereotype has transformed in the Jewish grandmother, or bubbe.
While still unschooled, food-obsessed, doting, loving, anxious, and a working class balabusta good home-makerthe Jewish grandmother is more mellow than her Jewish mother antecedent. All provide some understanding of the relationship between Judaism and guilt.
Although this article is predominantly theoretical, I end by briefly discussing the implications of Jewish guilt for psychotherapeutic work. Psychological distress, according to these authors, must be understood holistically and move beyond individual biographical factors.
Understanding guilt in therapy among Jews necessitates incorporating wider cultural and theological perspectives. Future work in this area should focus on the development of culturally and spiritually focused therapy for this population. Interpersonal guilt, spirituality, and religiosity: Religion and interpersonal guilt: Variations across ethnicity and spirituality.
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