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

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, 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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