Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews

An atheist’s Rosh Hashanah?

Pomegranate, apples and honey
Pomegranate, apples and honey

A rebbe was once asked if a non-believing Jew should make a blessing before s/he eats. His answer was: No, because that would be hypocritical (to acknowledge someOne Who one doesn’t recognize) but s/he should pause a second before eating. He called that: the pause that humanizes.

The question I want to raise is, can a Jewish Atheist have a meaningful Rosh Hashanah? I added the word meaningful to make sure we’re not just talking about eating an apple dipped in honey and pomegranate and singing Naomi Shemer‘s

Though, one could do less.

Traditionally, Jews check their ethical and ritual behavior and decide what to improve for the next year, to hopefully merit to stay alive. Maybe more importantly, we should do so, not just to prolong our days on earth but also to increase their value and meaning.

Smart people make only tiny new year’s resolutions. When we delivered them, we can plan a next step. Big pledges are bound to fail, as the saying goes: the way to Hell is paved with good intentions.

A popular trick to check our “Soul” is to see how we do with different Commandments. However, that should not charm your average Jewish Atheist. Let me suggest an alternative that should work for them.

Reb Shlomo Carlebach, with his big heart, shows us that being religious and being a people person is really one thing. He stresses that people who distance themselves from others to become “more religious” are rather removing themselves from G-d. Don’t kid yourself – he says – when you get closer to G-d, you get closer to people.

So, I see a very meaningful Rosh Hashanah preparation for the average Jewish Atheist of checking how they are doing in their relationships. How do you treat your close ones? (If you don’t have any, what are you going to do to get them?) How do you relate to people who are dependent on you (spouse, kids, waiter, cleaner)? How well do you ignore stereotypes and go against your set expectations of others? Do you treat everyone as valuable, worthy of your respect, as an equal, as an honor to meet? How well are you at being humble and not having to resort to anger or threats to feel safe and communicate gently what you want to say? Which people from oppressed groups make you feel uncomfortable and are under-represented in your life (Blacks, Gays, the Handicapped)? Do you prioritize hanging out with people who see you and treat you well? Are you generous enough to others, in money, time  and friendliness?

Will you just plod on the rest of your days, until your life comes to a hold, or will you rise to the occasion and make an effort to improve yourself?

These are not just private exercises for Atheists to excel in. Religious folks should ask non-believers to teach them these things more deeply.

I wish everyone a good and sweet Jewish New Year – especially Atheists!

About the Author
The author is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (DES - Diethylstilbestrol), born in 1953 to two Dutch Holocaust 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 vegan for 8 years now. * 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 lehavdiel bein chayim lechayim: Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo and Rav Zev Leff. * 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, 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, GLBTQAI, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), Ecology and Veganism. Many people can't understand or like him because he has such a wide vision that he never fits any specialist's box. But that exactly what others 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 quit 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 500st blog post with the ToI. * He likes doing age-appropriate and age-inappropriate things and looks forward to getting to know his timeless mature out-of-the-box soul mate. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me.
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