by Samuel J. Levine
Hardcover, 141 pages
Urim Publications, 2018
Yosef's behaviors, interpersonal relationships, and personal development are often difficult to understand, and at times seem to defy explanation. This book offers a coherent and cohesive reading of the well-known Bible story, presenting a portrait of Yosef as an individual on the autism spectrum. Viewed through this lens, Yosef emerges as a more familiar and less enigmatic individual, exhibiting both strengths and weaknesses commonly associated with autism spectrum disorder.
About the Author:
Samuel J. Levine is a Professor of Law and Director of the Jewish Law Institute at Touro Law Center. He has served as the Beznos Distinguished Professor at Michigan State University College of Law, and he has taught at the law schools of Bar-Ilan, Fordham, Pepperdine, and St. John's Universities.
Praise for Was Yosef on the Spectrum?:
"Prof. Levine is both a ben Torah and an accomplished scholar. His work is an act of both courage and love of Yosef. Courage - because some will criticize him for trying to diminish the stature of one of the shivah ro'im, when his intention was the very opposite. Love - because in order to address the difficulties many have raised with aspects of Yosef's behavior, he worked thoroughly and painstakingly with traditional sources to advance his theory, rather than ignore them as so many others do. Whether the reader accepts Prof. Levine's thesis or remains skeptical (as I do), we must imagine Yosef smiling at someone who labored so hard to defend him."
-Rabbi Yitzchok Alderstein, author of Nesivos Shalom
"Levine's interpretation of Yosef's life through the lens of contemporary psychology is innovative and provides a way for readers to find personal and practical insights for how to approach neurodiversity in the Jewish community today. While the topic is potentially controversial, Levine treats it with scholarship and respect and comes up with a very strong reading of the narrative. It is an interesting take and a worthwhile read."
-Rabbi Dr. Ira Bedzow, Director of Biomedical Ethics and Humanities, NY Medical College
"Sam Levine was my student in yeshiva, and I have known him for decades....I enjoyed his book on Yosef, which presents a thoughtful and creative literary analysis of the story, based on a close reading of the Chumash, midrashim, and classical meforshim."
-Rav Menachem Mendel Blachman, Senior Ra"m at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh
"Sam Levine has created a fresh, thoughtful and new perspective on a classic story.... He sensitizes us to what it means to live and lead on the spectrum...for Joseph and for all those who...struggle yet succeed."
-Dr. Erica Brown, author of Jonah: The Reluctant Prophet
Levine has written a richly suggestive interpretation of the Joseph narrative.
All of our biblical interpretation proceeds by appeal to some allied discipline
through which we read, for example, history, sociology, or rhetoric. Levine
makes appeal to our understanding of autism as a psychological deviation about
which a great deal is known. By this appeal Levine makes fresh, credible sense
of the narrative. This daring book
merits attention, both for what we learn of the biblical text, and for what we
learn of fresh ventures in interpretative method. Levine offers a compelling
provocative and carefully researched volume, Sam Levine uniquely humanizes both
characters in the bible and persons on the autism spectrum. Ironically, in
providing the reader remarkable access to the inner-life, travails, and
accomplishments of biblical Joseph, he advocates a nuanced and cutting-edge
inclusive 21st century perspective on the ways that society can and
needs to promote the well being and contributions of persons with ASD."
-Professor Jacob A. (Jake)
Burack, Ph.D., Department of
Educational and Counselling Psychology at McGill University
J. Levine’s book, Was Yosef on the Spectrum?, is a magnificent scholarly
work and most interesting. Levine sets out the diagnostic issue very
clearly and very carefully, and his analysis of the character of Joseph is very
persuasive. Overall, I came to the conclusion that the book’s thesis
stands up to scrutiny, and that the title is probably correct."
Fitzgerald, M.D., FRC Psych, M. Inst. Psychoanal.
"As he lays out his extraordinarily bold, profoundly thought-provoking hypothesis, Levine's deep love for and highly nuanced understanding of his subject leaps from every page."
-George Rohr, Noted Philanthropist
"Levine presents a compelling portrait of Yosef.... A sensitive reader will never look at Yosef, or individuals with autism, in the same way again.... This book will spark conversation and awareness, and hopefully change attitudes toward individuals with disabilities...."
-Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation
“Levine has provided a rich reading of the Joseph story
drawing from the classical Jewish sources. His is a rather novel claim within
the scholarly discussion of religion and disability that Joseph was on the
autistic spectrum but it is well backed up with close considerations of ancient
Jewish texts. Good books prompt thinking, and I kept wondering while working
through this one if there are other Hebrew Bible characters - maybe one or more
of the prophets - who may also be understood in similar albeit differentiated
terms. I have added this book to my religion and disability course syllabus, and
have recommended it to a few friends and colleagues.”
-Amos Yong, Professor at Fuller Seminary and Co-Editor of
The Bible and Disability
"This work represents a deeply researched close reading of the story of Yosef. Readers will experience a thought provoking analysis of Yosef's personality and a window into the lives of those on the highly functioning end of the autistic spectrum and their families. Recommended reading!"
-Dr. Deena Zimmerman, author of A Lifetime Companion to the Laws of Jewish Family Life