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

A disaster amidst celebrations, the shock of recognition

Rabbi Anshel Friedman, ZAKA chief in northern Israel, says Kaddish for those who died in Meron stampede, ahead of bodies’ transfer to families for identification.

After a year of social distancing, on Lag Ba’Omer 2021, 200,000 Jews were flocking to Meron in Northern Israel to celebrate the legacy of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai as never before. This was always a super fun and holy day on which even secular youths built bonfires, eat half-burned/half-raw foods, and talk, sing, and dance through the night. But this year, it seemed even more awesome, as we relish a return to freedom. Like Rabbi Shimon and his son, after 13 years living in a cave, finally could reenter normal life.

Then, suddenly people started to slip, and fall like human domino pieces. Forty-five people died. Israel is in shock. But it’s also the shock of déjà vu.

Only the preceding Shabbat, we read in our weekly Torah portion, how, at the unbelievably holy day of the inauguration of the Tabernacle, two of the four sons of the Aaron, the High Priest suddenly died (Leviticus 16:1, see also 10:1-7). They were the holiest of holy. How can that be? The Torah tells us they were bringing alien fired that G^d had not commanded when a Heavenly fire burned them, leaving their bodies and clothes intact. Were their contributions, on a very subtle level, alien to Judaism, a sin? Or had they merely displayed some overzealous fervor? Our holy commentators differ on the issue. In any case, Moses comforts his brother by saying that G^d becomes more holy in our eyes through the ones closest to Him.

Some people have suggested that the Holocaust was a Divine punishment for assimilation and dilution of European Judaism. Hardly anyone agrees. Some point out that, rather than a downfall of Jews, that was the final nail in the coffin of normalcy of antisemitism and of Caucasian supremacy. But in any case, also there, we saw that most of the victims were not Secular or Reform Jews but rather the most pious of the pious. Whole Chassidic and Lithuanian yeshivot and kehillot were exterminated. G^d becomes more holy in our eyes through the ones closest to Him. (This doesn’t let the actual perpetrators off the hook. They’re a shame to their families.)

Hundred-and-ten years ago, a euphoric crowd at Meron befell a similar disaster. While trying to find causes is important, especially to prevent a recurrence, assigning blame somehow wholly seems to miss the point. NB: Note, I don’t answer why this happened. Those who ask why, usually don’t need answers. They need to cry first. Just answer: Yes, why? And listen.

In any case, there are too many similarities between the death of the sons of Aaron and the revelers at Meron now. First of all the shock. What was supposed to be the greatest of feasts became marred by a disaster. And the victims had no wounds, their clothing still intact. The shock is palpable.

Only those who cling to life like Jews can understand the disaster of death.

May Heaven comfort the bereaved and heal the physically and emotionally wounded. And may the next repeat of Jewish history be a joyous one.

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 (, 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: 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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