Authority, Psychotherapy and the Authority of the Therapist in the Religious Haredi Community

And the doors of the Ark were opened and I saw a figure of a man standing and his head was resting among the Torah scrolls and I heard a voice come forth from the Ark between the cloths of the Trees of Life. I lowered my head and lowered my eyes, for I was afraid to look at the Holy Ark…..I reduced myself until it was as if I had vanished, so that He would not sense that there was a person here, for it is not possible that a king shall enter a country and he finds none of his ministers and servants except for one lowly servant? (Agnon, The Fire and the Trees, [1962], freely translated from the Hebrew p. 308).

Abstract

This article considers the meaning and significance of authority, and its relevance to the transference process, within the framework of psychotherapy in the orthodox Jewish (Haredi) community in Israel. In this community, deeply-rooted habits of obedience to the commandments of the Torah and the authority of the Rabbi are integral to maintaining an orthodox way of life. Clinical vignettes with Haredi patients are presented to illustrate the complexities that arise when both patient and therapist belong to the orthodox community, and highlight the authority-related issues that are central to the therapy. This combination of factors requires a sensitive and finely-tuned approach which will enable the therapist to maintain the treatment framework while still accommodating the orthodox way of life.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Adahan, M. (1997). E.M.T.. Jerusalem: Feldheim (in Hebrew).

    Google Scholar 

  2. Adahan, M. (2002). Awareness. Jerusalem: Feldheim (in Hebrew).

    Google Scholar 

  3. Adahan, M. (2005). To understand, to respect, to love. Jerusalem: Feldheim (in Hebrew).

    Google Scholar 

  4. Agnon, S. Y. (1962). The fire and the trees. Tel Aviv: Schocken Publishing (in Hebrew).

    Google Scholar 

  5. Amsel, A. (1969). Judaism and psychology. New York, NY: Feldheim.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Aron, L. (1996). A Meeting of Minds, Mutuality in Psychoanalysis. New Jersey: The Analytic Press, Inc.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Benyamini, I. & Zivoni, I. (2002). Slave, enjoyment, master. On sadism and masochism in psychoanalysis and in cultural studies. Tel Aviv: Resling Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Bick, E. (1968). The experience of the skin in early object-relations. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 49, 484–486.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  9. Bilu, Y. & Witztum, E. (1994). Culturally sensitive therapy with ultra-orthodox patients: The strategic employment of religious idioms of distress. Israel Journal of Psychiatry and Related Sciences, 31, 170–182.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. Bion, W. R. (1961). Experiences in groups and other papers. London: Tavistock.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Bion, W. R. (1967a). Second thoughts. London: Heineman.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Bion, W. R. (1967b). Notes on memory and desire. The Psychanalytic Forum, 2(3), 271–286.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Bion, W. R. (1974). Brazilian lectures: 1973, São Paulo: 1974, Rio de Janeiro/São Paulo (p. 1990). London: Karnac.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Caspi, Y. (2002). To demand God. Tel Aviv: Hemed (in Hebrew).

    Google Scholar 

  15. El-Or, T. (1992). Educated and ignorant: On ultra-orthodox women and their world. Tel Aviv: Am Oved Publishers (in Hebrew).

    Google Scholar 

  16. Ferenczi, S. (1932). The clinical diary of Sándor Ferenczi. (J. Dupont, Ed., M. Balint and N. Z. Jackson, Trans.). Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988.

  17. Freud, S. (1890–1938). Psychoanalytic treatment essays, 1890–1938 (E. J. Rolnik, Trans.). Am Oved Publishers. Tel Aviv, 2002 (in Hebrew).

  18. Freud, S. (1910). The future prospects of psychoanalytic therapy (Standard edition, Vol. 11, pp. 130–152). London: Hogarth.

  19. Freud, S. (1914). Some reflections on schoolboy psychology (Standard edition, Vol. 13, pp. 239–244). London: Hogarth.

  20. Fromm, E. (1941). Escape from freedom (p. 1994). New York, NY: Henry Holt Company.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Frosh, S. (2006). Psychoanalysis and Judaism. In D. M. Black (Ed.), Psychoanalysis and religion in the 21st century-competitors or collaborators? (pp. 205–222). London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Ghent, E. (1990). Masochism, submission, surrender: Masochism as a perversion of surrender. Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 26, 108–136.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Ginsburgh, Y. (2004a). Turning the darkness into light. Kfar Chabad: Gal Eyni (in Hebrew).

    Google Scholar 

  24. Ginsburgh, Y. (2004b). A healthy soul. Kfar Chabad: Gal Eyni (in Hebrew).

    Google Scholar 

  25. Hess, E. (2011). Psychoanalytical psychotherapy in the ultra-orthodox community: Contradiction, conflict or possible tension. Ph.D. Thesis, Alexandru Ioan Cuza University, Iasi, Romania.

  26. Hess, E. (2014). The centrality of guilt: Working with ultra-Orthodox patients in Israel. American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 74, 262–279.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Kilborne, B. (2008). Human foibles and psychoanalytic technique: Freud, Ferenczi and Gizella Palos. American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 68, 1–23.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Klein, J. (1979). Psychology encounters Judaism. New York, NY: Philosophical Library.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Mitchell, S. A. (1988). Relational concepts in psychoanalysis: An integration. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Mitchell, S. A. (1993). Hope and dread in psychoanalysis. New York, NY: Basic Books (Published in Hebrew by Bookworm. Tel Aviv, Israel, 2003).

  31. Mitchell, S. (2000). Relationality: From attachment to intersubjectivity. Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Ogden, T. H. (1989). The primitive edge of experience. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson. Tel Aviv: Am Oved (in Hebrew).

  33. Racker, H. (1982). Transference and countertransference. Tel Aviv: Bookworm Publishing, 2010 (in Hebrew).

  34. Rosenheim, E. (2003). My heart goes out for you. Tel Aviv: Yediot Acharonot Publishing. Tel Aviv, Israel (in Hebrew).

  35. Rosenheim, E. (2004). Axioms of the sages on human psychology. In S. Arazi, M. Fachler & B. Cahana (Eds.) Life as a legend—issues in Jewish psychology. Tel Aviv: Miscal (in Hebrew).

    Google Scholar 

  36. Rosenheim, E. (2008). Psychology in Judaism. Tel Aviv: Modan (in Hebrew).

    Google Scholar 

  37. Rotenberg, M. (1990). Existence through reduction. Jerusalem: Bialik (in Hebrew).

    Google Scholar 

  38. Rotenberg, M. (1997). Psychology, Judaism and Hassidism. Tel Aviv: Ministry of Defense (in Hebrew).

    Google Scholar 

  39. Rotenberg, M. (2001). From sanctuary to legend: Fundamentalism, psychology and Judaism. Jerusalem: Schocken (in Hebrew).

    Google Scholar 

  40. Rotenberg, M. (2004). Jewish psychology, science or the psyche. In S. Arazi, M. Fachler & B. Cahana (Eds.) Life as a legend—Issues in Jewish psychology. Tel Aviv: Miskal (in Hebrew).

    Google Scholar 

  41. Sagi, A. (1996). The open canon, on the meaning of Halakhic discourse. Yaacov Herzog Center for Jewish Studies, Tel Aviv: Hakibbutz Hameuhad Publishers (in Hebrew) (In English, London: Bloomsbury, 2008).

  42. Twerski, A. J. (1997). Getting up when you’re down. A mature discussion of an adult malady—Depression and related concerns. Jerusalem: Shaar Press/Mesora Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  43. Twerski, A. J. (1999). It’s not as tough as you think: How to smooth out life’s bumps. Brooklyn, NY: Shaar Press/Mesora Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Winnicott, D. W. (1950). Aggression and relation to emotional development. In: Collected papers: Through paediatrics to psycho-analysis (pp. 204–218). New York, NY: Basic Books Publishers, 1958.

  45. Witztum, D. & Greenberg, E. (2001). Sanity and sanctity: Mental health work among the ultra-orthodox in Jerusalem. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

    Google Scholar 

Biblical and Talmudic sources (in order of appearance) (Source of translation: www.chabad.org/library/bible)

  1. The Mishnah, Tractate Avot (Ethics of the Fathers), Ch 3 v 2.

  2. Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Avodah Zarah, Folio 4a.

  3. Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Shavuot, Folio 39a.

  4. Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Shabbat, Folio 31a.

  5. Exodus, Ch 23 v 5.

Download references

Acknowledgements

The author gratefully acknowledges Dr. Mariam Cohen (Arizona, USA) for her patient help and valuable suggestions, and Lieske Bloom (Israel) for the translation from Hebrew, and her help in bringing this paper to publication.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Esther Hess.

Additional information

Esther Hess, Ph.D. is a psychotherapist who lives and conducts psychotherapy in the religious Haredi community in Bnei Brak, Israel.

Address correspondence to Esther Hess, Ph.D., 14 Elisha Street, Bnei Brak 5152302, Israel; email: ehess@netvision.net.il

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Hess, E. Authority, Psychotherapy and the Authority of the Therapist in the Religious Haredi Community. Am J Psychoanal 78, 137–158 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1057/s11231-018-9137-6

Download citation

Keywords

  • authority
  • obedience
  • orthodox Jewish
  • psychotherapy in the Haredi community