In Scrip­ture: The First Sto­ries of Jew­ish Sex­u­al Identities

Lori Hope Lefkovitz
  • Review
By – October 10, 2011

Exe­ge­sis or eise­ge­sis, do we draw mean­ing from the text or do we add mean­ing based on our own expe­ri­ences, prej­u­dices, and knowl­edge? This ques­tion is one we must con­sid­er when read­ing Dr. Lefkovitz’s book on gen­der roles in the Hebrew Bible. The Bible does not shy away from sex­u­al­i­ty in either its sto­ries or mitzvot and cer­tain­ly reflects a point of view of a cul­ture and a time. 

Lefkovitz brings to the text a fem­i­nist, gen­der- based, psy­cho­an­a­lyt­i­cal analy­sis which impos­es upon the Bib­li­cal sto­ries new mean­ings of sex­u­al­i­ty through the lens of mod­ern life. Her work rep­re­sents a thought­ful and full explo­ration of sev­er­al famil­iar sto­ries begin­ning with Eve in the Gar­den and includes such well-known char­ac­ters as Miri­am and Joseph, explored in a new light of sex­u­al­i­ty and gen­der iden­ti­ty. The sto­ry of seduc­tion in the Gar­den has been well com­ment­ed on, but Lefkovitz adds new lay­ers of sex­u­al mean­ing to the ser­pent as a phal­lic sym­bol. In a post-Freudi­an world it is dif­fi­cult to inter­pret the ser­pent image oth­er­wise, but are we impos­ing our inter­pre­ta­tion or draw­ing out an inter­pre­ta­tion? Are there under­tones of homo­sex­u­al­i­ty in the Joseph sto­ry, or does the beau­ti­ful Joseph escape Potiphar’s wife because he real­izes the con­se­quences of act­ing on impulse? 

Inter­est­ing ques­tions to pon­der or refute in this chal­leng­ing read of evolv­ing sex­u­al iden­ti­ty in Jew­ish texts.

Bar­bara Andrews holds a Mas­ters in Jew­ish Stud­ies from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go, has been an adult Jew­ish edu­ca­tion instruc­tor, and works in the cor­po­rate world as a pro­fes­sion­al adult educator.

Discussion Questions