Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
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Jewish Law is not updated enough

As an Orthodox Jew, who was raised without any knowledge of Halachah but now for most of his life is obedient to it religiously (pun intended), I must say that it is both rich and amazing. It makes most of my life so much better and prevents me from making so many mistakes.

Having said that, from the bottom of my heart, I also must admit that a general set of rules cannot always be a perfect fit. However, for that I have my rabbi, whom I call when I don’t know what the law is or how to implement it specifically in my case, at this time under these circumstances. Maybe (surely) I’m lucky that I have such a wise and friendly possek — I’m always happy to call him, and receive his guidance.

Yet, sometimes the law is a bit dated. By nature, law always is adjusted after a change in circumstance occurred. That’s not a problem. Happens.

But what is a problem is that the updating is stagnating because the rabbis are afraid to rule. They only thing they feel safe to do is to make rules more and more stringent – even until they sometimes become a caricature of Judaism.

Now, am I allowed to think and say so? Sure. I’m obligated to have respect for the rabbis. (I do.) I must follow their rulings. (I do whatever I can.) But I’m allowed to disagree.

What’s more, I MUST disagree. When my possek rules in a way that I cannot abide by, I must inform him, so that he can take my new information into account and see if that would make it possible to modify his ruling.

Yet, there is also such a thing as general halachic rules. Specialized posskim who create the body of Halachah. And especially that, is not updated enough. Here come a few examples:

  1. State of Israel. Many rabbis call it the beginning of Redemption (a halachic category), but hardly any of them dare to change anything. Rabbi Goren did his best and so did Rabbi Ovadia and others. But we’re still largely living Diaspora Law, even in Israel.
  2. Women. How come the best general or brain surgeon can be a woman but no woman can be chief rabbi? I’m all for acknowledging that men and women are not the same — they are not — and for protecting the gender that is less flexible, less healthy, less mature and too brainy — we deserve respect and a place too. But do we want our legitimate needs to legitimize the repression of others?
  3. Homosexuals. A mass problem not know in the olden days. Especially homosexual men have nowhere to turn. They cannot touch anyone but their first-degree family members, they cannot be secluded with anyone, they cannot even wink at any grownup. This is obviously wrong. No rabbi seems to care. (Or, most of them care but are too terrified.)
  4. Friends. for many (Western) people, friends are taken the place of family. Let’s give an example. At a shivva, the mourners are those who are first-degree family members. Did anyone else ever notice that there are people at shivves that suffer tremendously, but are excluded from being the official mourners. Why? When, Heaven forbid, one’s fiancé dies, one is not a mourner. When one’s best friend forever (BFF) dies, you’re just a bystander. When your favorite aunt or uncle passed away, you don’t sit on a low stool and you don’t tear your closing and you can shower the whole week of mourning, etc. Why? Why not permit other truly close ones to be aveilim miderabbannan (Baruch Dayan haEmet without Shem uMalchut): be less-stringent mourners?
  5. Seculars. Many religious Jews are so insecure that they feel that they need to look down on secular Jews. Where is the law that we need to not just honor secular Jews but also take the best of them as an example of how one should be pleasant and loving with others (including all nice Gentiles). How can we expect G-d to like us and our children to stay in the fold if we pretend to love Him more than all His children?
  6. Ecology. Saving the environment is a hobby of some people. Presently, no Jewish law obligates us to stop ruining our chances of survival. We’re not allowed to rely on miracles, but why then do the rabbis not obligate us to stop wasting the planet — the only one we have?
  7. Health. Why are we still allowed to eat white bread and 14 meat meals a week? Why is giving children a cigarette on Purim still a “joke”?

As I mentioned, law always needs to change after the fact, but what we are looking at here is not a delay in change — it is stagnation. More people need to be aware of this standstill and protest the fossilization of Jewish law, so that the rabbis must act, scared or not.

Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo is about to publish a book on the problem of rigidified Halachah, Jewish Law as Rebellion: A Plea for Religious Authenticity and Halachic Courage. May it be bold! I’m not optimistic, though, because no rabbi so far has come out to trash him, degrade him, call him an atheist, demand that he’ll be stripped of his title, etc.

Full disclosure: Rabbi Cardozo is a friend of mine. The above examples are mine only.

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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