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uni'wissen 1-2013_ENG

Greek thought. The model states that the good and evil impulse are both present in every person. Oberhänsli­Widmer traces this idea back to Plato’s “chariot of souls”: The Greek philosopher saw humans as chariot drivers who need to keep two horses under control – the evil horse of de­ sire and the good horse of prudence. “The rabbis borrowed the allegory from Plato and made it into an astonishingly realistic anthropological model,” explains the researcher. They separated evil from God. “According to this concept, it is humans who can conquer the two opposing forces.” Nearly a thousand years after the formulation of the rabbinical concept of good and evil impulses, Oberhänsli­Widmer sees an extension of this line of thought in Freud’s famous drive theory: In the constellation of the id, ego, and super­ego, humans have to maintain a balance between var­ ious forces – a psychological model of the modern age that of course dispenses entirely with allu­ sions to God. “The more secular the age, the less prominent the role of God. What remains from epoch to epoch are the thought patterns, which are then filled with new content as appropriate.” However, the researcher emphasizes that evil is not only a harbinger of chaos and destruction – it also has a positive effect, setting a dynamic Prof. Dr. Gabrielle Ober- hänsli-Widmer studied French and Hebrew in Zu- rich, Switzerland; Florence, Italy; Avignon, France; and the Swiss towns Lausanne and Lucerne. In 1988 she submitted her dissertation on laments for the dead in the French and Occitanian Middle Ages to the Univer- sity of Zurich. In 1996 she completed her habilitation thesis on biblical figures in rabbinical literature at the same institution. After a stint in Israel at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, she worked as a visiting professor in Jena and Bern, Switzerland. Since 2004 Oberhänsli-Widmer has held the Chair of Jewish Studies at the University of Freiburg. Her research in- terests include the history of the influence of biblical motifs and figures in rab- binical and Jewish litera- ture as well as translations of modern Hebrew and contemporary Israeli litera- ture. Photo: Thomas Kunz Further Reading Oberhänsli­Widmer, G. (2013): Bilder vom Bösen im Judentum. Von der Hebräischen Bibel inspiriert, in jüdischer Literatur weiter­ gedacht. Neukirchen. Oberhänsli­Widmer, G. (2012): Leviathan und Behemoth. Archaische Chaosmächte als jüdische Bilder des Bösen. In: Ebner, M./ Fischer, I./ Frey, J. et al. (Eds.) (2012): Jahr­ buch für Biblische Theologie. Das Böse (Vol. 26). Neukirchen, pp. 259–290. Oberhänsli­Widmer, G. (2003): Hiob in jüdischer Antike und Moderne. Die Wirkungs­ geschichte Hiobs in der jüdischen Literatur. Neukirchen. process in motion: “Without an evil impulse, the human race would not make any progress.” There are even some human achievements the world has the cursed Cain to thank for: After his banishment he founded the city of Enoch, and his family includes the first harp and flute makers as well as the first ore workers and ironsmiths. He is thus a brother murderer who turns his energies to the advancement of civilization. Her study of evil has also released new ener­ gies in Gabrielle Oberhänsli­Widmer. At the moment she is working on a new book on figures of love: from the Song of Solomon, an “erotic effort” the rabbis wrote pious commentaries on with red faces, to the poems of Lea Goldberg, an Israeli writer from the 20th century, whose poems combine images of love with images of the Holo­ caust. The Jewish studies professor feels right at home moving back and forth between thematic extremes – and into the heart of the history of Jewish theology, culture, and thought. “I form the light, and create darkness”: Practicing Jews utter these words from the biblical verse Isaiah 45:7 in their daily prayer. The notion that God does not only create good but also evil drives Jewish priests, scholars, and philosophers to think in new categories. Photo: Rafael Ben-Ari/Fotolia 35