Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Middle Eastern Studies


Samira Haj

Subject Categories

Epistemology | History of Religion | Intellectual History | Islamic World and Near East History | Other History


intellectual History, Sigmund Freud, Abraham Shalom Yahuda, Mizrahi, Sephardic


This thesis focuses on an extensive critique of Sigmund Freud’s Moses and Monotheism (1939) written by a Jerusalem-born Iraqi-Jewish scholar of Semitics named Abraham Shalom Yahuda. I posit that Yahuda’s argument in his piece entitled “Sigmund Freud on Moses and his Torah” (Zigmund Freud ‘al Moshe ve Torato) rests on his analysis of three particular discourses—temporality, rationality and subjectivity—and the way these manifest themselves in Freud’s work. In his biting critique of the way said themes come to the fore in Moses and Monotheism, Yahuda should also be seen as challenging the homogenizing project of Modernity insofar as it attempts to erase difference and overlay humanity onto a totalizing rubric of fundamentally European and Christian genealogy. Yahuda’s interpretive method articulates itself primarily in an expository rather than reactive register precisely because Yahuda already sees himself as within the Modern. As such, he can logically represent his critique of Freud as deriving from within parameters long established by the authoritative corpus of Jewish tradition since he does not recognize any obvious necessity of tension between Modernity and Tradition. What distinguishes this study from the extant literature on the experience of Modernity among non-Ashkenazi Jewries is that Yahuda’s piece constitutes a direct engagement with a noted work which itself reflects many of the decisive trends in European Jewish Intellectual History. The deeply sophisticated nature of Yahuda’s critique therefore provides an opportunity to comment on some of the distinct characteristics of a Mizrahi perspective within Modernity. This, in turn, can serve the broader purpose of allowing the interpretive historical study of non-Ashkenazi thought to develop its own normative disciplinary standards.