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

Friends should get a higher status in Jewish Law

I explained that Jewish Law needs to reconsider its experimental (60-year-old) ban on all and every form of sexuality for homosexual men, and that the dangers of climate change need it to update too. Now, let’s look at changes in modern Jewish family life and their consequences for Halachah.

Hebrew Scripture stresses the importance of our tribal and family roots. Parents, siblings, children, and spouses have a special status.

(The Rabbis explain that raising or teaching youngsters makes them more your children than just donating DNA or/and renting out your womb.)

Yet, in the past century, for most Jews, family life has changed drastically.

It used to be that families lived as multi-generational clans, with siblings in every age group also living nearby. Many generations knew nobody who ever left their village (except to escape genocide). Parents had often many children. When one parent died, the surviving parent often remarried, thus adding resources and more kids. If growing up, you didn’t get along with one or both of your parents, no problem. There was easily an uncle, aunt, grandparent, older sibling, or neighbor who did get along with you. Then, you stayed with them for a shorter or longer time. Everyone relieved.

But in modern life, many families live isolated from their clan, dispersed, with often few children. All too frequently, children would leave their parents before getting married. And often, everyone after them built their own Mishpachah, called ‘friends.’ Especially when Ashkenazic Jews.

‘You can’t choose your family, but you can choose your friends.’ However, these friends, often lifesavers, have no status in Jewish Law.

This is an example true to life. I made a new friend from the Netherlands. He grew up in a very religious Christian family, converted to Judaism, and moved to Israel. The young guy got married in the Cave of the Patriarch complex in Hebron to a nice Dutch-Jewish girl. I remember it as an unbelievably deep and happy Chuppah/Chattunah. At a special time too: Chanukah, Christmas, and Ramadan coincided. But then it happened. Three months into the marriage (sorry for the shock), a terrorist murdered him in an ambush. A Jewish bride should find her husband home every evening in the first year. She shouldn’t have to bury him. And, how to comfort the mother? She did that herself. She said (I remember it as if it was yesterday): “My son was always an unhappy outsider. But since his conversion, he became happy. I’m so grateful he got to know happiness.”

No one doubts that his wife and mother deserved attention and empathy and help to live. But at the Shiva was his best friend in the army, or so. He was emotionally destroyed. But officially, he was no mourner. He came to comfort the mourners, but no one said to him: grab a low stool and cry.

Another example. Terrorists attack an engaged couple. The boy heroically saves the girl but dies himself defending her. They were ‘only’ engaged. Would anyone say that she’s not really one of the mourners? I wouldn’t.

Another happier example. I know of someone who moved with his whole family to another neighborhood to be closer to his Chavruta/learning partner. Yet, for Jewish Law, their relationship is almost meaningless.

First, one needs to notice that Jews now don’t live like 200 years ago. Then, one can easily see an update is in order here. Above, I mentioned which family members have a special status in case of mourning, G^d forbid. Let’s give Best Friends Forever a Rabbinic status as mourners. That means: Rabbinically obligated to sit Shiva, say kaddish, and have Yahrzeit.

Someone should be able to call their rabbi and tell him: I had such-and-such a relationship with someone who passed away now. Can I sit Shiva?

About the Author
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. * 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: * 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. * 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 (, 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.
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