Book of Judges

Madelaine Longman, M.A. in English at Concordia University


The following poem examines the phenomenon of obsessive-compulsive disorder, particularly in the form of scrupulosity: an obsession with being morally and/or spiritually good. While mental illnesses are generally considered irrational errors in thinking, I posit that there is internal logic to the thought processes which plague OCD sufferers. Obsessions experienced in scrupulosity, however disturbing,raise important ethical and religious questions, as one struggles to live up to impossible ideals of what it means to be good. By placing information on OCD alongside information on Judaism, particularly the figure of Yiptah (Jephthah), “Book of Judges” examines the distress which occurs when inflexible views on morality come into conflict with uncertainty. Rather than attempt to diagnose a religious/historical figure with a modern medical label, the piece strives to express the timeless dilemma of how to reconcile one's code of ethics with the inevitability of human error. The form of a poem in fragments accommodates the competing, often contradictory voices of Judaic religious authorities, embodies the religion's history of debate, gestures towards the bombardment of repeating thoughts which characterize OCD, and draws parallels between the absences and ambiguities found in both biblical doctrine and psychiatric theory.