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

How to keep improving after the High Holiday season?

Every little bit helps

If things are well, we’re still a little bit high from the High Holidays and the ensuing Festival week-plus. One of my rabbis responded: “That’s how we can tell that it was real what we did.” No doubt, that’s why we have not yet resumed saying our 12-times-a-week Supplication (Tachanun).

An important question though, before the momentum runs out of steam is, how to keep up the good work?

It is fabulous that Jews get an extensive and intensive chance each year to reexamine how we’re doing — and subsequently to make amends. But we don’t want things to go South from then on. The idea is to keep improving.

True, it’s not so simple to keep our enthusiasm from Elul and Tishray going. These are not special months for nothing. It’s hard to stay the course of steady improvement. So, our first effort should be, not to go down-hill.

There are two things we can do that may help not to backtrack and to advance: general things to help us improve and specific things to do so.

General — Happy go Lucky

Be happy. That’s not optional in Judaism. Moses (Deuteronomy 28:47) tells us that doing the Commandments but without being happy is a major sin.

(I asked a few rabbis on Purim how it can be that being happy on Purim is a Commandment from the Torah while Purim itself is instituted by the Sages? They all replied, But this is not from the Torah! I replied: “But, it is. It is from the Torah for the whole year.” On Purim one can be so naughty.)

When we realize what being happy does for us, we’d never leave house (bed) without it. Not for nothing, the last Festival was Rejoicing of the Law.

As I explained before, Let’s just do it.

And it’s easy to get discouraged. We need to surround ourselves with optimistic Jews/people. And learn new Jewish stuff as often as you can. Frequency is more important than quantity of quality. There’s no greater joy than learning Jewish stuff.

Let’s not ignore feelings, small or big. Let’s take time for them. Our brain doesn’t generate them for nothing. (It’s not a malfunction. Rather, when our vast intelligence detects a chance to get over some old trauma, it hints at that by re-creating past feelings. We need to cry, laugh, shiver, blush, talk/write about it, which are signs we are healing. Then an accumulation of distresses won’t, sooner or later, slow and drag us down. And we should also take time to celebrate success (through the same mechanisms).

When beginning or maintaining improving ourselves is hard, we can also pray for having it easier.

Specific — The Small Stuff is Big Stuff Too

Repentance generally works well like this: Try to find something small to improve. If it seems impossible, we should try to make the effort anyway or shrink the challenge. It may be not within our reach (yet) to never again … — then let’s just pass only now. It may be hard to go to a prayer quorum every afternoon — let’s just go once. If that didn’t work, at least free up time you would need to go. If that’s too difficult, reserve half that time.

Every step up brings up the next step to step up — and a passion to do so. There is no comparison between people who constantly invest (a little) energy into improving and those who are simply living out their days!

Every little helps. It doesn’t get more complicated.

Only when we’re ready to decide permanently, we could add some ideas on how to do that too. First, we must be sure that we’re ready to commit forever. It’s outright unhelpful to make a big commitment and then give up. Better not to commit at all then. But when we’re really ready, we need to withdraw. Big decisions are best made in solitude. Preparation may involve others. Celebrations afterward too. But big choices we make on our own. Maybe go somewhere special. A place with a view, a nature spot.

If we couldn’t do it, G^d would not patiently and lovingly expect it of us. Or have left us alive at all still. Let’s have a great year and the rest of our lives!

Have a great Marchesvan and a healthy winter!

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:
Related Topics
Related Posts