Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews

Jewish Law promotes us to be flexible

A good therapist spots when the client is stuck when s/he sounds rigid. It’s not the strangeness of a thought that perfectly indicates trauma but a lack of flexibility surrounding it. Jewish Law tries to keep us on our flexible feet. And the exception confirms the rule. Here are a couple of examples.

● It is always wrong to murder. Except, we have an obligation to kill if that would be the only way to stop an imminent murder. And a close family member under very strict rules could have a right to avenge an accidental murder. A large Rabbinic Court used to be obligated to execute violators of certain Laws if they found no way out — for which they must search hard.

● Lying is always wrong. Except when it would lead to needless pain. Then you may bend the truth (as little as needed) to save someone’s face. And you don’t need to be honest with liars out to get you–if you can get away with it. But it should pain you having to lie. It’s better to be silent.

● It is always wrong to steal. But if someone is about to make your money disappear and you would never see it back if you don’t steal it back right now, you’re allowed to take it away.

● It’s inexcusable to deny G^d’s existence even for one second. Except when someone asks for charity. Then you don’t say: G^d will take care of you. They come to you, G^d sent them to you, you take care of them.

● One first takes care of oneself before attending to the needs of others. One needs to have enough to give and give without becoming destitute oneself, a burden to others. But proper spouses give to each other first. That way, everyone receives. And when we pray, we first pray for others.

● Jews are absolutely not allowed to pray to anyone and anything but G^d. (Gentiles may pray to angels, etc.) But we are allowed to stand in the presence of a righteous person (or their grave) and hope that our prayers to G^d will be received more favorably in honor of the righteous person.

● You cannot oppress the powerless. However, when being a judge, you can’t rule against the rich from pity. True is true and false is false. But you can plead with a rich winner to have mercy and even help the other party.

● On Shabbat, we are not allowed to write. But we’re allowed on Shabbat to sign that we buy (back) a piece of land in Israel. That’s how important it is for each Jew to live in the Land.

● On Shabbat, you cannot light a fire and there are many other Injunctions. But, in the Temple, as part of the service there, you can.

● Shabbat you must keep into the smallest details. Unless a human life or limb could be in danger. That nullifies the Shabbat for you at that moment.

● Saving human life, including your own, goes above any religious rule or principle. Unless, to get there, you need to murder someone as innocent as you, to violate someone sexually, to declare/show yourself an idolater, to violate your life’s work, or endanger the survival of the Jewish People.

● You must honor your parents, in front of them, behind their backs, and when they are deceased. But if they tell you to violate the Shabbat or (don’t) marry such-and-such against your will, you don’t listen to them. The Command to honor them comes from G^d. So by asking you to disrespect G^d, they undo this Divine obligation for that moment.

● A Jewish man must learn Torah every waking moment unless he has another Commandment to take care of right now. But in the bathroom, you’re not allowed to speak, read, or even think of holy things. (The trick is not to think of this Commandment. Rather, you think of mundane things leaving no room for holy thoughts. Cities beginning with an R are ….)

● We should satisfy physical pleasures only in kosher ways, at kosher times, in kosher amounts. Our rational mind should be in charge, not our lusts. But when someone entices us, we acknowledge our feelings: “I’d love to eat that but what can I do? The Creator has forbidden it to me.”

● One should always be happy. But not at a funeral. But then, one should be happy in one’s heart. For what? That, one gets an opportunity to honor the deceased, comfort the survivors, pray for them, live another day, etc.

Life is too complicated to be governed intelligently by a limited number of black-and-white rules. But where they intersect, a lot of grays are created.

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, a daily blog contributor to the TOI. He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (https://diethylstilbestrol.co.uk/studies/des-and-psychological-health/), born in 1953 to two Dutch survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork, and holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam). He taught Re-evaluation Co-counseling, became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. 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 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. * Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years, he wrote hasbara for the Dutch public. His fields of attention now are varied: Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (statistics), Politics (Israel, the US and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight Truth), 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), Ecology and Veganism. Sometimes he's misunderstood because he has such a wide vision that never fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what many love about him. Many of his posts relate to affairs from the news or the Torah Portion of the Week or are new insights that suddenly befell him. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, reassure the doubters but make the self-assured doubt more. He strives to bring a fresh perspective rather than bore you with the obvious. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds must be disputed. In short, his main political positions are: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, democracy, anti the fake peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, Science, Free Will, anti blaming-the-victim and for down-to-earth optimism. Read his blog how he attempts to bridge any discrepancies. He admits sometimes exaggerating 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. * 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. November 13, 2018, he published his 500th blog post with the ToI. 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 a peek outside of your cultural bubble. * NEW: To see other blog posts by him, his overspill blog you can reach by clicking on the Website icon next to his picture at the head of every post. There you may find precursors to later TOI blog posts, addition or corrections of published TOI blog posts, blog posts the TOI will not carry, and some thoughts that are too short to be a TOI blog post. Also, the TOI only allows for one blog post per blogger per 24 hours. Sometimes, he has more to say than that. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me.
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