Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
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In times of disasters, we must celebrate because true joy is brave resistance

A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to wail and a time to dance—Ecclesiastes 3:4

Here are eight thoughts that may help us to enlarge joy around Purim.

1. Don’t Make it Worse

When you are in official mourning, you don’t participate. But almost no one sits shivvah right now. That in itself is already a reason to celebrate. In the first year after a parent dies, we diminish our celebrations. We honor them. But then too, we’re not supposed to be even a tad unhappy or sour-faced.

In therapy, we cry. When we are fresh mourners, we cry all the time. And we should. But for the rest, we don’t. It’s so simple.

Some survivors can’t celebrate after the Holocaust (or October 7). Or they refuse. We can understand. But we don’t kill our Traditions because of that.

We went through expulsion after expulsion, genocide after genocide, but we never stopped dancing as a People. We have specific days to mourn. At the height of our Festivals, we take a couple of minutes to mourn the ones we lost. But we don’t cancel the Holiday. The opposite: A Holiday cancels a shivvah! (Which is hard because we so need the days of fresh mourning.)

Stop being glued to the violent pictures and upset voices in the news. Stop hurting yourself! Reality is hard enough. No need to make it worse. Some people do the goriest work during massacres and wars. But not everyone.

Here’s a question to make people think like mad on Purim. How can it be that Purim is a Festival not from the Torah, but being happy on Purim is a Torah Commandment?

The answer is that being happy is from the Torah for every day of the year.

2. Don’t You Have Kids in Your Life?

I remember during the Second Intifada, a deadly terror attack in Tel Aviv on Purim just before picking up my kids. Do you think I told them? Of course not. Do you think I said we need to diminish our happiness this year? Of course not. While my heart ached on the inside, on the outside, we had Purim. This is not unlike having a migraine attack but smiling at your kids.

Sometimes, we need to push aside our pain for later. Not the survivors who are close relatives of those murdered. But even they are supposed to hear the reading of the scroll of Esther. Then they hear about the time we smote those who wanted us all dead. But all the 20 million other Jews are supposed to celebrate Purim fully. If you’re not happy on Purim, when will you be? Enough time in the year is left to mourn.

And without the miracle of joy, it will be impossible to forgive the chutzpa of what the world did and is doing to us. Impossible.

3. Yeshivah Boys in Auschwitz in Our Days

At about 17, my oldest went with his yeshiva and a couple of their rabbis to the Nazi extermination camps in Eastern Europe. They went after much preparation and talking about it, so I was not worried. He asked for a list of murdered family members to read there, and I got to over 100 when I ran out of time. They also went to a camp where they especially murdered kids.

After he returned, this was one of his stories: At the end of our Auschwitz visit, the rabbi told us to dance. We unrolled our Israeli flags and started dancing and singing. The Jewish People is alive and well. The non-Jewish guard looked at us with open mouth. Probably, he only dances when he’s drunk. We danced for some 20 minutes when our rabbi told us: That’s it. We rolled up our flags and filed into the bus. Now, the guard’s jaw dropped even further. To stop dancing on command, he certainly never saw before.

After Holocaust survivor Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach had visited Poland and had everyone dance, including many non-Jews, at his concerts there, upon his return, someone asked him: Reb Shlomo, of all places, Poland? His answer was: Someone had to bring some light there.

We dance not because we are happy. We are happy because we dance. Our actions determine our mood, not the reverse. That’s Jewish therapy.

4. Joy as Protest

After the destruction of the Second Temple, before going into Exile, the Sages suggested we stop being Jewish. Let’s not have kids and forget about it. The People said No, and the Sages were so honest to write it down.

We Jews have such a strong history and memory. It’s important to remember all the tragedies, but not every second of the day and only.

It’s easy to be depressed. Too easy. And forget and ignore all the good.

Even in the worst places of mass murder on October 7, 10% were slain, 30% were physically wounded, but 60% were left unscratched. Emotional and bodily healing will take a long time, but it’s better than being in the grave.

Unfortunately, for so many, Jewish only means Auschwitz and genocide. No Shabbat, Festivals, Jewish Community, or Jewish life. Only mass murder.

That is not Judaism! That is not being Jewish! That is not sustainable! That’s not a way to live! That’s not the whole truth about being a Jew.

Joy, fun, and cheeriness can give laughs, some relief of depressing stress!

5. Why Are You So Happy?

At dusk lying down crying, and at dawn joy —Psalms 30:6.

The text on the clip as I heard it: “Excuse me, [Reb Shlomo], I have only one question but a really important one for me and for most of Russian Jewry. The question is such. All Jewish history is one constant tragedy, constant Holocaust, constant mourning. Is that not a good reason to be in constant mourning for Jewish society, for Russian Jews, and for all Jews all over the world? The question is: Why are you so happy? What’s your reason to be happy, lucky, and joyous? Isn’t it more proper to mourn the Jewish people?”

Reb Shlomo answers: “Yeah, [I got you]. I’ll tell you something. Do you know that the happiest animal in the world is a pig? You know why? Because it always has dirt around. It puts its nose into the dirt and is happy. Do you know that of all the species in the world, only a human being is really sad sometimes? Still, I am rather a human being than a pig.

I want you to know that, of all the people in the world, we Jewish people have the most reason to be sad, but I’m so happy that I’m a Jew and have a reason to be sad because I’d rather be a Jew than anything else.

And let me tell you something more. If you look back, in the last two thousand years, surely you can tell me so many Jews were killed, and all those tragedies. But this is only one part.

Do you know how many Pesachs [Passovers] we had, how many Simchas Torahs [Festivals of the Torah], how many Purims; how many weddings, how many bissen [circumcisions]? And do you know something else, how many thousands of books we came out with? The world does not contain the wisdom that we have in even one book that we came out with.

So surely, there are a lot of reasons to be sad, but there are millions upon millions of reasons to be absolutely ecstatic and say Gewalt [Amazing]! You know, it’s …, it is unbelievable what’s happening to us Jews. I mean, can you imagine, after two thousand years, we go back to the Holy Land? I mean, that’s not to be believed, right? For this alone, you could dance for two million years, right? And something else: I want you to know we Jewish people are very much children-conscious. Like, when one baby’s born, I forget all my troubles, right? I want you to know when I look at my children, I’m in paradise. And do you know what kept us Jewish people going for so long? Because, whenever we look at our children, we think everything is worth it to bring them down to the world.

So, it’s true, when I go to Auschwitz, I’m heartbroken; I go to Majdanek; I go to Babi Yar, I’m destroyed emotionally, but nevertheless … let’s say, I was in Kyiv, right. So, I go to Babi Yar. I’m half dead, right? When I come back, I’m like dead. Then, the phone rings and my little girl calls me up from America. So, I forget Babi Yar, I forget everything. And suddenly I think, wow, Master of the world, how beautiful is the world.”

“But on the whole, [Reb Shlomo,] it’s impossible to forget everything.”

“You don’t have to forget everything. You know, the question is, in which department of your heart are you keeping it. You don’t keep your rubles in your heart. You keep your rubles in the bank, right? And the same thing is, everything you remember has to be put in a certain bank in your heart. So, all the tragedies I put in the outside bank, and then in the inside bank in my heart, I only put beautiful things. Otherwise, I can’t make it. I have to make it. And I want to make it.”

6. See the Good in the Bad

How could we enjoy eating if we’re not hungry?

How could we enjoy drinking if we’re not thirsty?

How could we enjoy embracing if we’re not lonely?

How could we enjoy resting if our labor wasn’t hard?

How could we enjoy learning if we already knew everything?

How could we enjoy sleeping if we’re not tired?

How could we choose life if no one could die?

How could we have integrity if lying was impossible?

How could we be smart if everything was easy?

How could we be a hero if there was no fear?

How could we be virtuous if sinning always felt bad?

How could we enjoy life if there was no forgetting? (Isaiah 65:16)

How could we enjoy giving and receiving if there was no lacking?

7. Tradition Over Assimilation

It might be no coincidence that the questions I heard about celebrating after October 7 come from Ashkenazic Jews. Mizrachic Jews are just a bit less assimilated and don’t split up between the very religious, the relaxed religious, the traditional, and the less-than-traditional. They celebrate together and let the super-religious lead. But everyone is welcome.

Yet, a leading Mizrachic Israeli rabbi calls upon us to show we care about our soldiers and show no Joy in the street, only at home. But we say Avinu Malkeinu and extra Psalms every day in the synagogue service for five months—How could we not care? Does he have no soldiers in the family?

Besides, how is Purim too happy but the Eurovision Song Festival OK?

Well, when our Tradition (B.T. Ta’anit 29a) says celebrate, we celebrate.

The Talmud doesn’t say: be happy. US fakeness. It says: Enlarge happiness. When it’s hard, our reward will be a thousand-fold, our Rabbis teach.

It doesn’t say: Enlarge your happiness. It’s not all about you. Be social: read this. Make others happy or laugh. Happiness strengthens. It gives the energy to continue life, no less than good mourning.

We don’t celebrate Purim to have a good time!! It’s not a party.

We celebrate to show our gratitude for saving us Jews and keeping us alive.

And if you ask: ‘How can I be grateful,’ I ask: ‘How can you not be grateful?’

8. There is a Time for All Things

We mourn on Tish be’Av but not on Shabbat.

At the first of the month, we sing Hallel, but during war, we also say Avinu Malkeinu. And so, we’ll do during Purim.

Understandably, if one only celebrates Yom Kippur, Purim, and the Eve of Pesach, then one asks: How can we be happy on Purim during a war?

But if one asks that, we can ask in return: How do you get out of bed in the morning during war? How do you get to bed at all? How can you eat?

Life must go on, despite it all. Not by ignoring the not so good but by giving it its proper place.

Last but not least, being happy is not the only part of Purim. Jews handing over food packages to each other must show that the slander is bogus that Jews live spread out because we hate each other. There is no more appropriate time to do this than right now, during a war for our survival.

Happy Purim!

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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