Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
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How to get more humble during the Ten Days of Repentance?

These prayer ideas will work as well for theists as atheists

This piece is not for everyone. It will speak to humble people, but they don’t need it. How do you know which one you are? If you’re over sixty, typically, you know. If you’re younger, ask someone who loves you and is honest enough to tell you about the status of your ego.

The prayers of the Ten Days of Repentance from Rosh haShannah till Yom Kippur may give totally wrong impressions. As if these are religious tricks on how to get the most out of the coming year. Following are some ideas to undermine these false impressions of Orthodox Judaism.

Us, not Me

The prayers are almost all in the plural. It’s not all about me me me.

In fact, we don’t pray for anyone else in particular too. It’s all about us.

We pray in groups, not to give our own prayers strength. Rather, our prayers can only play a role as part of a communal prayer effort, as part of a National Prayer. Many women know this and, therefore, can pray alone.

Much of the Prayers ask for the continuation of the Jewish People. Some of it, though, is for all of humanity. This unity is not for the sake of unity but for the sake of everyone doing the right thing.

Yes, we beat our chest when we express regret for many sins. But it’s not just about us. It’s also about the effect our sins have on others, and how we have not coached others out of their sins.

We each have the ability to drill a fatal hole in the boat we are all on. Not doing so may save everyone. That doesn’t make one the captain.

Free Will

There are two mistakes about Free Will. In the West, many hold that they are in full control. So, who needs Fate of G^d? In the East, many assume that Fate or G^d is in control. “G^d is great!” “Whatever will be will be!” So, who needs Man?

The Jewish truth is that both conclusions are incomplete and therefore faulty. A lot, if not everything, is decided for us; yet, what we choose, even if it’s preordained, makes a crucial difference. We should be credited for our good deeds because of our (teachers’) efforts. Our poor deeds should be condemned because of our (teachers’) love for being less than good.

The whole idea that we help G^d or Humanity is faulty. We got the honor of being invited to play a modest role. Even if we are successful, how much do we contribute? How much goes better because of us? We didn’t place ourselves at this juncture in time, and we received our character from the people who raised us, so little good of what we do speaks of our virtue.


Too much emphasis is on the life we want and too little on gratefulness for the life we had, so far. Yes, we ask for life. But, we also prioritize saying Shehecheyanu. This is to express gratefulness for the days until now!

Bless others wholeheartedly. Let others bless you. But pray for everyone. It’s very holy if you know that only G^d gives us everything. But, we should not act like spoiled kids for whom nothing is ever enough: more, more!

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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