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Fromm-Reichmann, F. Bever, C.T. (1995). Jewish Food Rituals. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 23(1):7-17.

(1995). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 23(1):7-17

Jewish Food Rituals

Frieda Fromm-Reichmann, M.D.1 and Christopher T. Bever, M.D., M.A.*

In my psychoanalytic practice, I have frequently had the opportunity to observe Orthodox Jewish analysands as they gave up rituals and ceremonies to which they had previously conformed. These detachments obviously are not accomplished all at once any more than are those of an obsessive compulsive abandoning the neurotic ceremonial of his private religion (Freud, 1913b). I was struck by observing that the sequence in which the various prohibitions and their protective prescriptions were abandoned was approximately the same in these differently structured neuroses. Usually the daily prayers go first, the ritual dietary laws last. Naturally, environmental fixations may play a part in this selection. The religious practices that the environment cannot control are given up later than those that are exposed to authorities. This is no explanation, however, as the same pattern occurs in individuals living in isolation.

We therefore assume a profound ontogenetic basis for the food rituals. We have learned from Freud that the sentence, “Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” must also be applicable to psychology (Freud, 1907). We may therefore conclude that dietary laws belong phylogenetically to the oldest rituals. This assumption accords with the results of research into religious history.

We begin our psychoanalytic investigations of the Jewish religious rituals with the analysis of the dietary laws. In this I follow Abraham and Reik, according to the familiar methodical orientation established by Freud. We search for the explanation of incomprehensible cultural prescriptions and customs in the same psychic complexes, in the same affective tendencies which psychoanalysis has demonstrated on the basis of dreams and the formation of symptoms.


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