Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
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Could it be that all the Commandments make sense?

It depends on who you’d ask

Judaism prescribes a laborious lifestyle dictated by an interplay of the 613 main/root Biblical Commandments. They are typically divided into those that make sense and those that don’t. Most of our Rabbis urge each of us to research the Divine Directives for their rationales or objectives. Yet, Maimonides has the ingenious suggestion that we look for as many ways as possible to understand them (to support our motivation), but then give up on all reasoning and just obey them because G^d says so. (If following the Commandments would depend on us understanding them, we’d open the door to rejecting them one by one. Who understands anything? Alternatively, we could say: Back then, this made sense, but not now …)

I think that we can safely say that every Commandment makes sense. How so? King Salomon is said to have understood all of them but one. And there are many ways to understand that one—so much so that we should wonder what about that one he couldn’t understand.

Let’s have a detailed look at some examples of several of its categories.

Immediately Understandable Commandments

You shan’t murder. How can life be good for anyone if that’s not obeyed?

Understandable Commandments After Some Contemplation

● Honor your parents. When we’re young, we think faster, are stronger, more flexible, in a better mood, and though we know less, we don’t know what we are overlooking. It’s natural to think of older people as rudiments of past glory. My mother once told me when I disagreed: “When you’re so old as I am now, you’ll think back on what I said [and see I’m right].” Most cultures in the world hold by honoring parents, even after their demise, but that is not enough reason. Without honoring the elderly, we have no wisdom, humility, or gratefulness to the ones we should feel indebted to.

● Don’t put two different species of animals before a cart. For having different instincts, they won’t understand each other and will both suffer.

● Don’t drink non-Jewish wine. It could lead to partaking in non-Jewish religious wine libations and to getting too close to Gentiles at parties, which might end up in a mixed marriage, reducing our numbers. Other strong drinks are not forbidden, because the Torah doesn’t want to ban too much. It’s just making one statement for us to remind and guide us.

● The stronger a societal leadership role a group has, the more Rules and Commandments the Torah puts on them. The opposite of natural societies where the mighty get/take more privileges, ruining equality and fairness.

● Many forms of incest are forbidden, even with consent. If you think, in general, what this creates, you’ll get it. It makes a non-sexual environment for small children. Older ones can (almost) impose ‘consent’ on younger ones. We want families where this can’t be done, no questions asked.

● For humans, it’s not good to be alone [with G^d]. There might be exceptions but the Torah only gives rules needed for most people.

Understandable Commandments After a Lot of Contemplation

● A Jewish child created in a sexual union forbidden to the Jewish man may not marry most other Jews. But such a child is innocent. Everyone agrees it is. But this is done to frighten men away from such kinds of behavior. It’s as ‘irrational’ as building a nuclear arsenal to destroy the whole planet seven times until you understand it’s done for deterrence.

● Jews, don’t drink milk after meat. Gentiles, you can. But we have the same body, no? Yes, we do. But kosher meat has been emptied out of blood, so it contains much less iron. The same enzyme in the intestines that uptakes iron also absorbs calcium, but it binds stronger to the latter. So, consuming the two together makes that most iron is not absorbed into the body. That is (only) problematic to someone keeping a kosher diet. Yet, if we first drink milk and then eat meat, the milk has passed already the place of uptake before the meat arrives: no problem, which is Jewish Law.

● When we finally understand these kinds of Laws, we don’t only see how brilliant they are, but this also strengthens our belief in the Torah.

● You cannot save someone’s life at the cost of your own life. It’s not something that’s yours to throw away. If this rule didn’t exist, every time there is such a conflict, always, the least-generous one would survive.

● A man should not lie with a man as with a woman. For homosexual men, who need another man to adhere to, this makes no sense. Well, read it again. It only addresses heterosexual men, who’d lie with a man as they would do with a woman. For a homosexual man, sex with a man is not a replacement for women, who’re not on his radar at all. Only replacement sex is outlawed. And that is brilliant because that leads to addiction, no closeness, no commitment, and in the end, the guy leaves wife and kids for an easier life going from man to man (as the Talmud explains). This way, it doesn’t only make sense; it shows the Wisdom of the Author of the Law.


Should we throw out most Rabbinic Commandments?

Maybe the Rabbis overdid it, or perhaps we don’t need this anymore?

A friend of mine is a deeply spiritual, highly committed Orthodox Jew. He tells me: “Most of the Commandments are not from the Torah but from our Rabbis. If it were up to me, I’d abolish them. Unfortunately, there is nothing I can do.” Is he right?

I’ll tell you (and him, later) why he’s mistaken.

1. The greatest Rabbis, like Rav Ovadia and the Lubavitcher Rebbe, love the Jewish People as no one else. If they didn’t take away most of the Rabbinic Commandments, it must mean they’re here to Profit us. Men should listen to a Torah reading at least once every three days so it stays alive in our heads, which keeps us Jewish. Men should pray with a quorum to train us to be friendly with men. What the Rabbis say about honoring one’s wife teaches men to behave properly with women. Jewish life makes Jews live close to a synagogue, which creates caring physical communities. They created dozens of Blessings to help us stay grateful and humble.

2. The Rabbis are obligated to make fences around what is forbidden by the Torah so we don’t come to violate those inadvertently. Just imagine that moving a pen would be allowed on Shabbat. Then we would be less Protected against the Biblical violation of writing. We should not cook on Shabbat or a ‘woman’s work’ would really never be done.

3. Many of the Rabbinic Prescriptions make life simpler if not livable. They made the Main Standing Prayer for festive days shorter. If you’re eating or drinking something and you’re not sure if you made the Blessings before doing so, the Rabbis say: leave it; just, next time, pay more attention. The Rabbis explain that Jewish Women are exempt from most of the Positive Commandments (generally, they are fine the way they are), and which things they don’t need to do. They explain bit by bit what our obligations and restrictions are on Shabbat, the Festivals, and weekdays or we could never be sure if we’re doing a good job and in which aspects to improve.

4. Rabbinic Enactments prescribe what G^d wants from us too. But not writing them explicitly into the Torah, and letting the Rabbis derive them from the Text or Tradition, He clarifies which Commandments to Prioritize when they conflict, and logic can’t help (Of course, keep Torah goes before honoring parents). They put gray between things that are obligatory and forbidden. The Rabbis also explain that potentially saving a human life has priority over keeping Shabbat and other urgencies. But in any case, G^d wants us to obey Rabbinic Instruction too; just, He didn’t record them.

5. The Rabbis bring us many valuable aspects of Jewish life. They tell us not to waste our lives chasing hoarding useless piles of money or Property, honor, competing against others instead of against our former self, etc.

6. Do you really want to change the Picture of Judaism? No more Purim, Chanukah, Sh’ma’, or Hallel, and no more set ideas about Torah readings, Biblical Texts, Talmud and Mishnah studying, or body of Jewish Law, including lulav, Chatunah, Seder Evening, Siddur, and Machzor?

7. In the end, the division between Rabbinic and Scriptural is largely academic. Many of the Rabbinic Laws just come from the Rabbis explaining the Torah. And many of the Scriptural ones are passed down by the Rabbis only. In practice, they both are G^d’s Directives to us and binding.

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, previously a daily blog contributor to the TOI. He often makes his readers laugh, mad, or assume he's nuts—close to perfect blogging. He's proud that his analytical short comments are removed both from left-wing and right-wing news sites. None of his content is generated by the new bore on the block, AI. * As a frontier thinker, he sees things many don't yet. He's half a prophet. Half. Let's not exaggerate. Or not at all because he doesn't claim G^d talks to him. He gives him good ideas—that's all. MM doesn't believe that people observe and think in a vacuum. He, therefore, wanted a broad bio that readers interested can track a bit what (lack of) backgrounds, experiences, and educations contribute to his visions. * This year, he will prioritize getting his unpublished books published rather than just blog posts. Next year, he hopes to focus on activism against human extinction. To find less-recent posts on a subject XXX among his over 2000 archived ones, go to the right-top corner of a Times of Israel page, click on the search icon and search "zuiden, XXX". One can find a second, wilder blog, to which one may subscribe too, here: or by clicking on the globe icon next to his picture on top. * Like most of his readers, he believes in being friendly, respectful, and loyal. However, if you think those are his absolute top priorities, you might end up disappointed. His first loyalty is to the truth. He will try to stay within the limits of democratic and Jewish law, but he won't lie to support opinions or people when don't deserve that. (Yet, we all make honest mistakes, which is just fine and does not justify losing support.) He admits that he sometimes exaggerates 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. * Sometimes he's misunderstood because his wide and diverse field of vision seldomly fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what some love about him. He has written a lot about Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (including basic statistics), Politics (Israel, the US, and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight reality), 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), the Climate Crisis, Ecology and Veganism, Affairs from the news, or the Torah Portion of the Week, or new insights that suddenly befell him. * Chronologically, his most influential teachers 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. This short list doesn't mean to disrespect others who taught him a lot or a little. One of his rabbis calls him Mr. Innovation [Ish haChidushim]. Yet, his originalities seem to root deeply in traditional Judaism, though they may grow in unexpected directions. In fact, he claims he's modernizing nothing. Rather, mainly basing himself on the basic Hebrew Torah text, he tries to rediscover classical Jewish thought almost lost in thousands of years of stifling Gentile domination and Jewish assimilation. (He pleads for a close reading of the Torah instead of going by rough assumptions of what it would probably mean and before fleeing to Commentaries.) This, in all aspects of life, but prominently in the areas of Free Will, Activism, Homosexuality for men, and Redemption. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, and disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed. He aims to bring a fresh perspective rather than harp on the obvious and familiar. When he can, he loves to write encyclopedic overviews. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds should be disputed. In short, his main political positions are among others: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, anti those who abuse democratic liberties, anti the fake ME peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, pro-Science, pro-Free Will, anti-blaming-the-victim, and for down-to-earth, classical optimism, and happiness. Read his blog on how he attempts to bridge any tensions between those ideas or fields. * He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (, born in 1953 to his parents who were Dutch-Jewish Holocaust survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork. He grew up a humble listener. It took him decades to become a speaker too, and decades more to admit to being a genius. But his humility was his to keep. And so was his honesty. Bullies and con artists almost instantaneously envy and hate him. He hopes to bring new things and not just preach to the choir. * He holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam) – is half a doctor. He practices Re-evaluation Co-counseling since 1977, is not an official teacher anymore, and became a friendly, powerful therapist. He became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years, he was active in hasbara to the Dutch-speaking public. 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 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. 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 an original peek outside of your cultural bubble. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me. * His newest books you may find here:
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