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Zeligs, D.F. (1953). Two Episodes in the Life of Jacob. Am. Imago, 10(2):181-203.

(1953). American Imago, 10(2):181-203

Two Episodes in the Life of Jacob

Dorothy F. Zeligs

Two episodes in the life of Jacob offer material that is particularly provocative for psychoanalytic inquiry. One of these is Jacob's dream on the night he flees from home after stealing the blessing from his brother Esau. The other is his mysterious experience twenty years later, on his way back to Canaan, when a stranger comes out of the night and wrestles with him.

In his book, Dogma and Compulsion, Theodor Reik connects these two experiences in a telling fashion. He maintains that the latter episode was displaced by the editors of the Bible and is really an integral part of the earlier experience. Both belong to the puberty rites through which Jacob passed, first, the wrestling with the stranger, signifying the initiatory hostile attack by the father during which Jacob undergoes a partial mutiliation, or circumcision, and the second part, the bestowal of the blessing and the consequent rights and privileges of the youth as an adult member of the tribe. Dr. Reik indicates, also, the relationship of these rites with the giving up of infantile incestuous wishes and the readiness for new object relationships. His study treats the Jacob Saga as an expression on an individual level of an experience common to each member of the group.

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