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

Happy days, Festivals, then sad days, fast days—does Judaism wants us bipolar?

Halachah tries to train us to have our emotions by choice, not fate

The following stories will illustrate the issue

Naïve Jews

Jews must be good people. However, we are people, so we have all kinds of. Specially, a tendency to wickedness is not inherited in our time. In brief modern Hebrew, we say: Yesh weyesh: literally: You have, and you have, meaning: You have such and its opposite in every group. Nevertheless, or maybe because of this, Judaism tries to train us to be good-natured.

Yet, this has a terrible, life-threatening side-effect. It leaves us deadly naïve. Dishonest people can’t trust anyone. Honest people assume that everyone trustworthy. Peaceful people are already ‘reassured’ when a mass murderer (Arafat) smiles at them or wears a necktie. Therefore, I want rabbis to stay out of politics. Generally, way too naïve and decent.

My mother’s parents stepped on the train to Auschwitz and said to my mother: The People of Goethe won’t harm us. They didn’t realize it was also the People of the infamous Antisemite Martin Luther.

Many years after WWII, once, my sister still had to correct our mother with the words: Mother, not everyone is like you.

My daughter went with her high school on a trip to Ukraine. Pappa, I cannot believe it. Older people staring at us with so much hatred. For what? It was a shock, but finally, some of her Israeli nativity had died.

My oldest son went with his Yeshiva to the Nazi death camps. The rabbis prepared them for months so that it would be a good experience and not just traumatic. It shocked my son to the core but it didn’t break him.

He told me of their visit to Auschwitz. They read the names of the family members of the students who were murdered in the Holocaust. My son had to distribute pages of my list to help him read the over 100 names. After they had done the more serious work of Prayers and Kaddish, the rabbi directed them to take up the Israeli national Two-Color and to start dancing while singing: Israel Chai: The Jewish People is alive. The Gentiles guards couldn’t believe their eyes. Dozens of teens singing in Auschwitz in a circle, disciplined but exceedingly happy. They were only ‘happy’ after they drank lots of alcohol. After 20 minutes or so of this, in the middle of a song, the rabbi ordered them back to the buses. Now the mouths of the guards fell open the widest. To suddenly start dancing they knew of. But to stop on command, they obviously had never seen such a thing.

Feeling by Choice

And that is exactly what Jewish Law tries to teach us. As King Salomon tells us (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8): To everything there is an appropriate time.

We could be sad all the time. Jewish Law tells us when we have to be.

We could be happy all the time. Halachah tells us when we must be.

We could be emotional all day. Sometimes, we need to be just rational.

We could be smart all day. Sometimes, we just should feel our feelings.

I was taught even this has limits. To have a sliver of Shabbat on weekdays, and a little bit of sadness on Festival, because we only obey and serve G^d—not even our Jewish calendar. (Don’t worry: G^d told us to obey civil society and our parents (within limits), and respect each other, etc.)

That doesn’t mean that spontaneous feelings are forbidden. I’m a happy camper. Every 18 months or so, I feel a little depressed. I then understand it must be something important and immediately drop all jolliness. It lasts 1-3 days of introspection, and then, I return to the default. Spontaneous feelings should not be ignored. Yet, they shouldn’t just lead and define us.

BTW: Happy and sad are more similar than opposites. Laugh until you cry. Being cold and unemotional is the opposite of having any feelings.

That doesn’t mean that spontaneous prayers are forbidden. They’re often the strongest. Sometimes we pray harder outside of Shul. Which is fine.

During the funeral of my mother, I couldn’t find the right Psalm to say with everyone. My wife said: Just feel. This is the time.

The great Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, the Ramchal, found already centuries before the behavioral therapists that when you behave a certain way, the feelings will follow. Don’t sit around waiting to become happy. Pull up those corners of your mouth (mean it—no play acting), say something optimistic, think something optimistic, and you will find yourself happy.

The Torah tells us that when you see someone in trouble with whom you always quarrel, help him. That will rekindle your love for him.

So, the Hebrew Bible can tell us not to be jealous. Our Prayerbook directs us to be happy in Israel. Jewish Law tells us to love our spouses.

Thus we accepted G^d’s Instructions: Naasey weNishmah: We will [each] do [as You tell us], and then we’ll [each] appreciate [it, retroactively].

Ellul, the Last Month of the Jewish Year

There is the following story to teach us how to be in Ellul.

Once upon a time, there was a clever guy who thought of making a lot of money. OK, it was illegal, but only one time, so he convinced himself it was not so bad. He organized a whole bunch of assistants to help him smuggle an enormous wagon with contraband over the border. If they’d succeed, they’d be rich for the rest of their lives.

A month before the happening, the organizer got worried. If they were caught, he would go to jail for decades. No happily ever after. A week before the journey, the assistants got worried. If they failed, jail awaited them, not money. Only the horses were not scared.

A month before Rosh haShannah, the righteous, the organizers, become worried. (Also, the Mizrachic Jews start Seleechot.) A week before Rosh haShannah, the regular people, the ones instructed, get worried. (Also, the Ashkenazic Jews start Seleechot.) Only, don’t be like the horses.

In Ellul, G^d is so close (until the end of Yom Kippur). Talk to Him.

Happy Ellul.

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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