Frau Freud

In memory of Michael Porder I   September 29, 1939, 20 Maresfeld Gardens, Hampstead, London: on the first Friday after Sigmund Freud’s death, having accepted more than a half-century’s imposed impiety at her husband’s insistence, the seventy-eight year old Martha Freud started to light the Sabbath candles again. Licht-bentshn, as the ceremony is called. You light a pair of candles just as the sun goes down; circle your hands in a sweeping motion three times to gather the light and savor the candles’ warmth — the spirit of restfulness that they are meant to convey — and then you cover your eyes with your hands while reciting the blessing in which God is thanked for sanctifying us with the commandment to light these candles. Enter Shabbat the Queen, as the Sabbath is known in Jewish tradition, a presiding feminine presence in a patriarchal environment where most of the active, time-specific commandments, such as the wearing of tefillin or phylacteries (a pair of small black leather cubes, containing pieces of parchment inscribed with Biblical verses, one of which is strapped around the left arm, hand, and fingers and the other is strapped above the forehead) for the morning prayers, fall on men, since women are presumed to be busy with other priorities, such as housekeeping and childcare. And now here was the widow of one of the most formidable enemies of religion fulfilling one of the few obligations incumbent upon women under Jewish law. It was, surely, a form of poetic justice — or perhaps a testament to the hold of the past, however abjured it may be.  She was born Martha Bernays on July 26, 1861 in the German port city of Hamburg, into a highly regarded and intellectually advanced Jewish family to whom such recurrent observances meant a great

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