Wrestling Jacob

Deception, Identity and Freudian Slips in Genesis

by Shmuel Klitsner


Close readings of the biblical stories of Jacob from both literary and psychological perspectives

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About this book

About the Book

Wrestling Jacob presents close readings of the biblical stories of Jacob from both literary and psychological perspectives. The readings explore the relationship between text and subtext as reflecting the relationship between the conscious and subconscious.

On one level, this book is about Jacob’s personal wrestling with his own angels and demons, his struggle to build a ladder between his own internal heaven and earth.

On another level, it is about deceptions of ourselves and of others that threaten the fragile development of our identities.

Settle back and enjoy this intellectually exhilarating exploration of dreams, Freudian slips, resistances and transference, as Jacob, mirroring everyman, wrestles with men and God and struggles to be blessed.

Perhaps above all else, Wrestling Jacob introduces a new way to read the Bible, in which unusual word choices, odd syntax, and striking parallels conspire to reveal profound new meanings in an ancient text.

About the Author

Rabbi Shmuel (Steven) Klitsner, a student of the late Nehama Leibowitz and co-author of the acclaimed novel The Lost Children of Tarshish, has trained a generation of Bible teachers at Jerusalem’s Midreshet Lindenbaum College and at the London School of Jewish Studies.




Zvi Grumet, Lookstein Digest
Klitsner’s work is valuable – for its careful reading of the text, for its psychological insights, and for its incisive derash. Ultimately, the deep readings in this book are not about wordplay, psychology or intertextuality. Those are but tools available to the student of the text serving a greater purpose – to uncover the ultimate meaning of the stories. That message, according to Klitsner, relates to the struggle of biblical heroes caught in a “double bind of moral responsibility vs. covenantal destiny – evident when biblical characters try to advance the divine objective in ways that bypass their own integrity.” Biblical heroes are expected to grow into a position in which their moral autonomy is paramount, regardless of what they perceive to be a prophetic imperative. The book explores “the tense and often contradictory relationship between what the divine plan seems to be and the implicit condemnation of dubious human machinations to bring about the divinely mandated result.”

Regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees with specific interpretations offered in this volume, its overall moral message is a clarion call. In the end, it’s not about our judgment of the biblical characters, but about what we can learn from them.

Rabbi Shlomo Brody, Tradition Journal online
This is an innovative and scholarly work that deserves careful study.

Leonard A. Matanky, Jewish Book World
Too many Biblical commentaries today consider anomalies within the text of the Torah from either one of two extremes: as problems needing to be resolved, or as mistakes needing to be dismissed. In this fascinating new work, Rabbi Shmuel Klitsner proposes following a third approach: to consider these anomalies of syntax or grammar as the way that the Torah communicates both text and subtext. This approach, which the author ties to Freudian interpretation of language, allows Klitsner to find new meaning and motivation in the Genesis narrative….

Rabbi Klitsner is a master teacher whose knowledge and ability have created a scholarly work that will be of great value to bible scholar and layman alike. But even more, in this work he presents a paradigm of how to read a biblical text that can be applied to other texts beyond the scope of this current study.