In this exhaustive study Woolf makes a real contribution to our understanding of the primitive unconscious origins of certain compulsions incorporated in Jewish religious law. Searching for the origins of the prohibition against the simultaneous consumption of milk and flesh he first investigates the historical development of the night of the Passover festival and concludes that it celebrated three events:
(1) 'The spring festival of El, the Sun-God, with large offerings of the firstborn of men and beasts, a feast dating from the very beginnings of the Nomadic Age. (2) The festival of the mercy of God, who has renounced the sacrifice of children and allowed their redemption by the lamb. (3) The liberation of the people and their release from slavery, the return to national freedom and independence (with a reinterpretation of rites and customs) and the resumption of former national habits and customs, and of the old national religion.'
From this festival, which in its deepest strata represents the eating of a child (much as it is practiced today among the nomads of Central Australia), Woolf goes on to investigate the cooking of a kid in its mother's milk. (The kid, of course, represents a baby and any meat, by association stands for the kid or baby.) 'Cooking a kid in its mother's milk was part of the cult of Astarte, worshipped by the Canaanite Phoenicians as the goddess of fertility and love.' Since the worship of Astarte was the religion of the agrarian peoples surrounding the nomadic Jews, the Hebrew prohibition against such practices was on the first level 'a juristic precipitate of the religious and national struggle between Jewish monotheism and heathenism'. This prohibition existed among many other primitive pastoral tribes and thus 'At a lower level it is an echo of the historical struggle of the peoples of the earth, including the Semites and, especially, the Israelites in the days of their wanderings, against the superior, but hostile, agricultural civilization of their neighbors'. Finally in the deepest unconscious stratum the prohibition is one against gestation—the child in the mother's body—clearly shown in that '… seething the kid in his mother's milk became the symbol of fertility in the worship of Astarte… This matriarchal right the Bible veto apparently seeks to destroy. The son belongs not to the Astarte mother, the goddess of fertility and love, of the earth and its crops, but to the paternal, omnipotent Sun-God, El… this prohibition reflects the conflict between the matriarchal and patriarchal forms of society.'
Woolf's argument is well thought out and richly documented.
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W., H. (1948). Prohibitions Against the Simultaneous Consumption of Milk and Flesh in Orthodox Jewish Law. Psychoanal. Q., 17:127