Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Rav Wolbe: Religion has replaced sex as taboo

This is my translation of an excerpt (pp 72-73) from Rav Wolbe's essay on Religion and Psychiatry that I recently posted 

Frankel quotes the Yale University psychiatrist, F. C. Redlich, “Psychodynamic psychiatry threatens the strict religious dogmas. It seems to do this by its implicit values rather than by explicit statement.” Frankel added the following comment after attending a conference of psychiatrists in New York. “It is almost impossible to find in New York psycho-analysts who don’t have serious doubts about the mental health of their clients - if after completing their psychoanalytic treatment they are still actively religious.” If this observation is in fact accurate, perhaps it is truly time to acknowledge that there is absolutely no necessary contradiction between the Jewish conceptualization of man and that of psychiatry. Perhaps the two views even complement each other. I am going to allow myself to be sarcastic for a moment and to say, After seeing the elevated picture of man as the beloved friend – how can one be satisfied with the picture of man as an intelligent monkey with the addition of a subconscious mind and a bit of sublimation?” There is to this matter an additional aspect. Psycho-analysis made a major contribution by revealing the mechanism of repression i.e., repression of the libido. With the passage of the years the analytic concepts such as libido and repression have in my opinion – become very popular. While permissiveness is not implicit in psycho-analysis, nevertheless the popularization of psycho-analysis has caused it. That is because the masses have found justification in it for permissiveness. Perhaps they have even found guidance to behavior which is very free concerning sexual issues. Consequently – repression of the libido has become uncommon.  Today there is no repression of sex – but there is repression of religious feelings. That is what Frankel has written. He quotes Gordon Allport, “Perhaps there has been an exchange -  during the course of the last 50 years - between the nature of religion and sexuality: Today psychologists write without any inhibition-  such as Freud or Kinsey – regarding the passions of man. However they blush and keep quiet the moment the conversation comes to religious yearnings.


  1. Intersting note regarding Torah view of subconsious - Succah 52 - 7 names of Yetzer HaRa - last is Tzafoni - hidden one. R.Tzadok HaCohen in Tzidkas HaTzadik explans that the only way to be saved from it is by Tefilla and regards Hevel as being a spiritual rodef against Kayn on the level of the subconscious. (Which is why HaShem allowed Kayn to succeed in killing Hevel). Freud's idea of dreams as the 'royal road to the subsonscious' does not seem to be supported in early Torah sources. (Brochos speaks of dreams as reflective of a person's conscious thoughts during the day, not subconsious.)

    1. Berachos (55b) R. Ze'ira said: If a man goes seven days without a dream he is called evil, since it says, He shall abide satisfied, he shall not be visited by evil?

      He doesn't dream because he hasn't repressed his evil desires but has acted on them. If he hadn't acted on them he would have dreamt about them

  2. This is really spot-on.


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