Dear Pope Francis,
You are more than a friend to the Chosen People. You learn from us. You started gaining knowledge from Jewish friends before you became the Pope. And you were right.
Jews as Teachers
I hope you won’t mind that I think that your friendly comment that Jews are Christians’ ‘older brother’ does not go far enough. Judaism is rather your parent creed, a full generation above you. It is correct to be close to us and love us, but it’s not enough yet: we need to be extra respected too (Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 5:16). (In most parts of the world ‘older’ means esteemed, but unfortunately, in the West it often means: seen better days.)
Thinking highly of us will not make Jews bigheaded. Arrogant educators would be poor teachers. We know that in a way we have greater responsibility than non-Jews, and that we have the capability to realize that mission. That doesn’t make us better than Gentiles. If we don’t live up to our larger duty, we are actually less meritorious than non-Jews who do abide by their tasks in life.
When G-d gave mankind Instructions, He didn’t throw these Guidelines onto earth, Heaven forbid. He gave them to the Jews to communicate them further. And not to try to make everyone Jewish – no need. It is enough when humanity would learn from us periodically.
However, more than Jews should teach all people, we should hint to our Monotheistic friends when we think that they got something wrong. The great religions that believe in One G-d and are rooted in the Torah should sometimes check their Sources. So please allow me to tell you some Jewish ideas that seem improperly represented in present RC teachings.
Human Needs are Fit for Humans
First of all, let me state something positive. Although Christians call a kind of translation of the Hebrew Bible merely “the Old Testament,” they are right to still carry it up-front in their Scriptures.
Clearly, humans need air to breath, fluid to drink and food to eat in this world. That is not a weakness of the flesh or imperfection of Creation. Rather, these are needs to help us appreciate a generous Creator and – enjoy life. In His eternal wisdom, He made fulfilling our needs pleasurable.
Part of our human challenge is that abuse of our need fulfillment may also be pleasant (in the short run). That sometimes gives food and other gratifications a bad name, but basically, meeting our needs is perfectly fine.
The first curse in the Bible (Genesis 3:14) was for the snake to eat dust all the days of its life. That doesn’t seem something awful given the abundance of dust in the world. However, the curse was: get out of My eyes – I will provide for you so plentifully that I never need to hear from you again. It is a blessing to depend on the All-Good for our needs. While over-indulging would not be a good idea, within limits, we are meant to enjoy this life and praise G-d for that. Refusing His gifts is an improper affront. Having established this important Jewish insight, let’s look at one detail.
Really early in that G-dly text the Bible says that it’s not good for humans to be alone (Genesis 2:18). What solution is there? To bond with a partner, to become one flesh (Genesis 2:24). This is not optional, like what profession or residence to choose. We must do this or G-d calls our lives not good! It seems that our deep psychological isolation is only defeated in a close loving sexual relationship. That makes sexuality more than an optional nice activity. Rather, when properly used, it is an indispensible cure of deep loneliness.
Now, one could be brave and say: I can handle discomfort. Let me be celibate and isolated. However, such fearlessness has several consequences outside of oneself. As an idealistic sacrifice it looks impressive and commands respect. Unfortunately, it also gives the impression that G-d ideally demands a life of self-chosen suffering. That paints a picture of the Lord that is degrading. Judaism teaches that putting G-d to shame is the worst sin. But there is more.
The vows of poverty and obedience are beautiful, but the vow of chastity is unattainable, except for maybe some people with certain mental of physical ailments. (Secretly spilling of seed cannot be taken for obedience or success.) With superior ambitions, we could always say that one should try harder, but it’s G-d Himself Who tells us to not even attempt this, as it is not good. The Hebrew Bible is Mankind’s Instruction Manual produced by our Manufacturer. We would know better than G-d? (There was one person who was demanded to refrain from sex, from the age of 80 — Moses. It’s admirable to want to be like him, but outright arrogant to pretend that one could be at his level.)
If it’s hard to learn from the Jews, let’s learn from the Messiah. He must be a Jew; he must be very learned in Judaism; he must keep the Commandments. If he’s fit for marriage and nevertheless unmarried, he cannot be our Redeemer.
Please free your holiest, your Priests, for the unattainable mistaken devotion to everlasting sexual abstention and tell them to get married to a partner who would encourage their pastoral devotion, and have children (Genesis 9:1, 9:7). This is extra important now that life-spans have doubled making a life of solitude extremely unbearable. If we should love our neighbor (Leviticus 19:18), you certainly should mercy upon your Priests.
May G-d bless you and safeguard you. May G-d illuminate His Countenance for you and be gracious to you. May G-d lift His Countenance to you and establish peace for you (Numbers 6:24-26). Shalom, from Jerusalem!
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, an almost daily blog contributor to the Times of Israel, and previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. 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. *
As a frontier thinker, he sees things many don't yet. He's half a prophet. Half. Let's not exaggerate. He doesn't believe that people observe and think in a vacuum. He, therefore, wanted a broad bio that readers interested can track a bit about what (lack of) backgrounds, experiences, and education contribute to his visions. *
If you don't know the Dutch, get an American peek behind the scenes here: https://youtu.be/QMPp6h6r72M *
To find less-recent posts on subject XXX among his over 1600 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, here: https://mmvanzuiden.wordpress.com/. *
Like most of his readers, he believes in being friendly, respectful, and loyal. Yet, 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 who don't deserve that. 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), 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. *
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. *
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. 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, anti-elitism, anti-bigotry and supremacy, for Zionism, Intersectionality, and 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. *
He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (https://diethylstilbestrol.co.uk/studies/des-and-psychological-health/), born in 1953 to 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. Bullies and con artists almost instantaneously envy and hate him. *
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, empowering therapist. He became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids non-violently. 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 being a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. He lives with his library in Jerusalem. Feel free to contact him. *
His writing has been made possible by a (second-generation) Holocaust survivors' allowance 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: https://www.amazon.com/s?i=stripbooks&rh=p_27%3AMoshe-Mordechai%2FMaurits+van+Zuiden&s=relevancerank&text=Moshe-Mordechai%2FMaurits+van+Zuiden&ref=dp_byline_sr_book_1