Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews -- For those who like their news and truths frank and sharp

A cave dweller from Purim until Tu Bishvat

It was Purim in Jerusalem that I decided that being outside is too dangerous because of the coronavirus epidemic. And this week, the day before Tu Bishvat, I had my vaccination (four and one week ago) and I’m free to walk the streets, go shopping, go to meetings, have guests, hug people, travel to Tel Aviv, and be singing in the rain (hopefully still).

I missed spring, I missed summer, I missed autumn. I missed shul for the first time in 40 years, day after day, week after week, Shabbat and Yom Tov after Shabbat and Yom Tov. I wasn’t there for Torah readings, for Kaddish, for Barechu, for Kol Nidre, for Hallel, for predications, and being part of the prayer quorum. Yes, we did a few Minyans on our balconies but the less-scared wanted to sit together again and left the more-cautious ones alone. Yes, a friend came to blow the Shofar under my balcony. I learned to celebrate Shabbat utterly alone — and enjoy it. Praying and sleeping and learning as it worked out or when I wanted.

I missed circumcisions, weddings, and funerals. Demonstrations, fancy dinners, and concerts. Trips and outings. Hugs and handshakes. So much!

But, I started paying more attention to cooking. I became braver in trying to compose new recipes and was awarded success. I found out that I can have extensive health-supporting meals with few shopping requests for my grown kids. I learned to say no to zoom sessions five times a day.

I began to enjoy being in my cave. Nasty people existed only virtually — one press on the button and they were gone. No more waiting for a bus. I gained so much time that I started writing new books, some long overdue.

And slowly but surely, I began to like being a recluse, solitary life. I never knew that that side of me could be so large. When I start to reenter public life, I will look back in nostalgia on the ten months that I stayed a hermit.

I understand that for someone who’s 20 and remembers the last 3 years only, a year of disrupted life is heavy. For me, with 60+ years of memories, and (hopefully) at least the same time span ahead of me, what’s a year?

I understand that the economy lies in shambles. But I never saved so much money not being able to go shop and buy stuff I don’t need. I feel for people whose livelihood was (almost) killed and I’ll try to play my part in vitalizing prosperity in exchange for some luxuries and goodness.

I understand that sadly, so many people died and fell sick and still are, many through no fault of their own, way before their time. So many more fell victim to a lack of proper information or understanding of the dangers.

With the epidemic ended, if only in Israel, so much good will bloom again.

But although I will again enjoy all the good things I missed out on, I won’t forget all the good that this staying put has given me. In the beginning, I’ll be upset by rudeness or challenged by uphill climbs. Let me take earplugs with me whenever I leave my cave. Some Israelis shout terribly even when they’re close to you. Plugs just take the edge off of it. And I hope to re-find my old/new balance but now enriched with a new introverted calmer self.

Tu Bishvat is such a nice holiday to go celebrate. It’s full of traditions, fun, and meaning without much shoulds and musts. It’s really a celebration.

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, a daily blog contributor to the TOI. He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (https://diethylstilbestrol.co.uk/studies/des-and-psychological-health/), born in 1953 to two Dutch survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork, and holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam). He taught Re-evaluation Co-counseling, became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. * His most influential teachers (chronologically) are: his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach, and, lehavdil bein chayim lechayim: Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff, and Rav Meir Lubin. * Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years, he wrote hasbara for the Dutch public. His fields of attention now are varied: Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (statistics), Politics (Israel, the US and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight Truth), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, LGBTQIA, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), Ecology and Veganism. Sometimes he's misunderstood because he has such a wide vision that never fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what many love about him. Many of his posts relate to affairs from the news or the Torah Portion of the Week or are new insights that suddenly befell him. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, reassure the doubters but make the self-assured doubt more. He strives to bring a fresh perspective rather than bore you with the obvious. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds must be disputed. In short, his main political positions are: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, democracy, anti the fake peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, Science, Free Will, anti blaming-the-victim and for down-to-earth optimism. Read his blog how he attempts to bridge any discrepancies. He admits sometimes exaggerating to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quite a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second-generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. November 13, 2018, he published his 500th blog post with the ToI. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having a peek outside of your cultural bubble. * To find his earlier blog posts on a certain subject XXX, among his over 1200 ones, go to the right-top corner of the Times of Israel page, click on the search icon and search "zuiden, XXX". His second daily active less tame blog, to which one may subscribe, one may find here: https://mmvanzuiden.wordpress.com/ or by clicking on the globe icon next to his picture on top. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me.
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