Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
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Jewish Love

Tonight, G^d willing, will my son Shalom marry Bat-el. The following states in English what I hope to say there. Today is also the 39th yahrtzeit of my father, natan ben mordechai, and also 6 years since the death of the great Marshall Rosenberg. May our accomplishments all strengthen each other.

Tonight is a very special day of this month, the 26th. Twenty-six is actually twice thirteen. And 13 is the numerical value of the Hebrew for love.

Strangely, the Torah commands us to love. To love your fellow, to love the proselyte, and to love G^d, our G^d. This is strange since, generally, the Torah doesn’t talk a lot about feelings. It describes life as we can all see it, unaided by telescope, microscope, television, surgeon, or psychologist.

Why has your face fallen, G^d inquires to know from Cain. Not: Why do you feel lousy? The major exception about feelings is G^d Who is sometimes reported as being angry. But maybe, that’s the least one may do in staging SomeOne IncorpoReal. So, what is love doing in Scripture?

Please, let me suggest that the commandments to love do not mean that we must feel very happy with someone. “Waiter, bring me some fish — I love fish” reveals fake love. If you’d really loved fish, you would not eat it.

Rather, go love, in the Torah, means: Make the others feel that you love them. This understanding explains a few things I never understood before.

Isaac and Esau

For me, it’s inconceivable that the only child of Abraham, who loved everyone, Isaac, would not know how to love his son Esau. Only when he fed him game he would love him? And this great saint would not be disturbed to have his sympathy be ‘bough’? Never made any sense to me.

Rather, that’s not what it could mean. Esau knew how evil he was. Hiding his evil side from his father did nothing for making him feel better about himself. Only when his father ate fresh meat dishes of wild he captured and prepared, Esau felt some hope that his father could love him.

The saintly Jacob did not have such trouble. He just felt that his mother loved him. I once asked one of my children, when he was about five, how he knew that I loved him. He said: “Because, because, because I FEEL it.”

Moses and Jethro

On Shabbat, we just read, over a dozen times in one chapter, of Jethro being Moses’ father-in-law. Once would have been enough. Exaggerate and say it twice. Why so many times, I asked myself every year.

Maybe an answer can go as follows. We are commanded to deeply love proselytes. Yet, they may have a hard time believing it. Jethro served all idols in the world before turning to Judaism. And now the Jews, who suffered as slaves, are going to not only accept and honor him, but also love him while he had suffered nothing? Maybe they’re just being polite.

Of course, Moses honors him. To make your in-laws feel honored is part of the command to honor one’s parents. So, he feasts him to an exquisite banquette. But honoring is not making him feel loved. So, he can’t stop telling everyone that this is my father-in-law. How often? Thirteen times!

In Prayer

In the first blessing of our thrice-a-day main prayer, we say that everything G^d does for us is “from love.” The numerical value seems fifteen but let me suggest reading it differently: from: 2, love: thirteen: twice 13.

To pray in Hebrew is a reflexive word. G^d will hear our prayers but do we too overhear and pay attention to the words we say? The prayer should help us notice in our lives how much G^d loves us. And much of what we do and don’t do would warrant making G^d feel loved, so to speak. Twice thirteen. That’s 26. The numerical value of the Tetragrammaton, G^d’s special four-letter Name. Our relationship with G^d is a two-way street.

And that’s how it should be between husband and wife. Not that they feel good about the other. But rather, that they each make the other feel, by action, by words, by facial expression, by thoughtfulness, you are loved.

And when both feel the love of the other, G^d is with them.

The Sick

May the One who loves us all, heal all the sick we care about, here, at home, in hospital, in the Diaspora, take away any life-threatening danger, shortness of breath, lack of taste, pain, or lack of energy, and return them to full physical and emotional health, still tonight, let us say Amen.

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 (, 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. * To find his earlier blog posts on a certain subject XXX, among his over 1200 ones, go to the right-top corner of the Times of Israel page, click on the search icon and search "zuiden, XXX". His second daily active less tame blog, to which one may subscribe, one may find here: or by clicking on the globe icon next to his picture on top. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me.
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