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

How does being happy, humble and friendly relate to repentance from love transforming rebellion into obedience?

Repentance from love transforms rebellion into obedience means that, as Israelis say: the intention is the essence. When we change past intentions, we change (the essence of) the past.

Yet, this rule does not always hold true. That is – and I say this with the greatest amount of respect – a mistake of classical Christianity. Feelings, love, thoughts are not enough. Rather, most of the time, we need to act (and for other Commandments: refrain), in order to improve. And our improvement is the reason for the Commandments; not “serving G-d.” He needs naught. All’s for our good (end of Deuteronomy 10:12-13).

Intention is the essence only after the act. First act well. That may teach you to intend well (Exodus 24:7). Intention without acting is hypocrisy.

We need to obey in order to become better people. Modifying behavior was only really promoted in modernity by behaviorist Edward Thorndike just a century ago, but Judaism teaches it already for millennia – not as one of our options but as the main way to live well.

Thus we may understand how eating swine meat may be transformed retroactively into dining on super-kosher stake. However, we cannot cunningly violate Commandments saying: we’ll repent later. That illegal “leeway” is a corruption, which itself is extremely hard to atone for.

Further, if we stole or in other ways hurt people, the rest of nature, the course of history and their Creator, regret is not enough. We must undo harm caused, in order for apologies to work. And sometimes we can’t. (We can’t return the dead. We may not be able to return all we stole. The wronged person may have died already – even if not by our actions. We may be unable to trace or find all the people we wronged. How do you ask forgiveness from an animal you hurt? How do you undo ruining someone’s life or the course of history?) That’s one additional reason why we need to be extra careful not to hurt, murder, slander or destroy.

But generally, if we did something not kosher, repentance may turn it into kosher action. If we did not do what we should have, repentance may turn our passivity into kosher action. And it transforms punishment into reward. We need to be serious enough that our change should be permanent. Pretending does not work here, but really trying does.

Happy, Humble and Friendly

Now a question. Repentance can after the fact turn sloppy praying into articulating and intending well during prayer. It can also turn not praying into praying. Now, which one was worse, hardest to atone for? Not praying, because sloppy prayer at least was some kind of prayer? Or sloppy prayer because it least we did not degrade prayer? And if they are equal, does that mean that not praying equals sloppy praying?

With sloppy praying, at least we spend energy and took our time (though probably not enough). We tried. No one is perfect. At least, we carried and preserved the holy tradition that others turned away from.

True as this may be, we also increased falsehood into the world – a very serious sin. We also acted as we should but without happiness – which is what brings the worst of curses into the world (Deuteronomy 28:47). We also repelled others from prayers – if this is to pray, it’s not for me. (It’s us religious who create the non-religious. Reb Shlomo Carlebach says: If the restaurant is good enough, people will come and eat there.) We prided ourselves into being G-d’s lackeys but were actually embarrassing the Throne of Glory – the worst sin that can only be repented for by repentance, confession, going through Yom Kippur, suffering and eventually death combined. (Although intensely and continuously glorifying G-d’s Name may also work.) And arrogance almost makes it impossible to repent because (falsely) we see ourselves as the cream of the crop. The Mishnah (Avot 5:19) calls haughtiness as one hallmark of only three that characterizes someone not worthy of being a Jew.

So would it be better to pray extremely well or not at all? Yet, the law of all or nothing and perfectionism are not part of Judaism. We need to humbly allow ourselves to grow, step by step. And we need to serve G-d, not norms of perfection. It is true that paying attention to detail shows that we care. If we can’t even show care for detail, how are we going to take care of bigger tasks? However, most hairsplitting and hyper focus on details are born from a lack of courage to look at the big picture.

(Perfectionism is a mental illness. It doesn’t mean to do things extremely well. Rather, it sets very high standards for only a very small range of activities. Even if we would manage to live up to them – though normally they unnecessarily discourage or delay (complete) performance – this comes at the expense of all other things we need to take care of.)

It seems to me that in doing Commandments we should be zealous, but make sure to stay or be or act as if happy, humble and friendly. Not: make it or fake it. Rather: if we mean it, we will become it. It is not worth it to public obey Commandments while being stern, serious, self-content and distant. If you don’t want to trouble yourself, at least to come across as happy, humble and friendly towards others, do yourself and others a favor and hide yourself from everyone, at least as a Jew. The damage otherwise done might be beyond repair.

No, I do not conclude that if you can’t be nice, you are exempt from public performance of any and all of the Commandments. Rather, I conclude that is hardly costs any energy to lift those corners of your mouth, look at others and smile and shut up instead of argue. If you’re not willing to spend that kind of energy, but rather would superficially play being Jewish, you will only make things worse. So: lift those corners of your mouth, look at others and smile and shut up instead of argue!

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. None of his content is (partly) generated by AI. * 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: * To find less-recent posts on subject XXX among his 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, 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. * 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 (, 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:
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