Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
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Orthodox Judaism sans shoulds

G^d has no needs—most of us do

Famous is the story about a Jew who found it difficult to fast. His rabbi advised him to speak with the locally most righteous person. But, the latter had no idea how he could help.

I never fasted in my life! You never fasted in your life? You follow Jewish Law, no? Of course, I do. So, don’t you fast on the day we mourn the destruction of the Temple? No, I don’t. But Jewish Law prescribes fasting! That could be, but on that day, I simply cannot eat. What about Yom Kippur? Then, I’m too busy with important matters to think of eating.

Chief Rabbi Kook asks how it can say that in the future, Commandments will be abolished. G^d gave them for eternity! He answers that, in the future, we will keep the Commandments eagerly, without obligation.

All the Sages agree that, when we weren’t quite ready for the giving of the Ten Commandments, Moses asked and got it postponed for a day. How come? Duty-binding at will? No, the Torah is not a Liability. That’s how we can say on the Commemorative (not-postponed) Festival that it’s the Day of the Gift of our Torah: Then, we understood it’s a Gift (per R’ Zev Leff).

My best friend told me 41 years ago that if you don’t like to live a life with Commandments and Injunctions, obey them from your heart’s desire. As soon as you want to obey, the shoulds and shoulndn’ts have fallen away.

Let me talk, for a moment, to those who are worried that this would diminish their Heavenly reward (yet, they should leave that to G^d and not serve Him as slaves who obey their masters for reward). True, those doing Commandments they are obligated in receive more reward than those not obligated. But, certainly, no one can receive more reward than those serving G^d from love and not from fear or greed.

This dovetails very nicely with the idea that G^d doesn’t need us to act in any way. His Torah is only a Guide to the Perplexed. If you know always exactly what is the most moral and beneficial, you don’t need Advice.

The Torah is to help us to be our best, to have the best life which could be.

When G^d told Abraham about Sodom, he didn’t need Abraham’s opinion. And his opposition was also no surprise to the One Who is beyond time and knows everything. Rather, He heard from him exactly what His next Thought was, as He wanted to hear. He wanted to team up with him.

When G^d orders something bad, He gives us a chance to oppose it, to act and pray against, for evil to be taken away. G^d could do it all on His Own. He doesn’t need our opinions or actions. But, he gives us an opportunity to do part of perfecting the world so that He can reward us for that.

One of the meanings of Him creating us in His image and of that He loves us is that He gave us brains and acts in ways that we can understand. If we don’t understand, He wants us to think and learn harder. Not everything is that obvious. But also, not everything is good in the world. Yet, we can understand why we were put in an unfinished world—to help.

What, for instance, if something happened already and looks really bad, like human death? We could understand that in the past, it would have been a disaster had everyone stayed alive. Many in the West, now with a double lifespan, are part of the ‘sandwich generation,’ having to take care of both their parents and kids. It’s not easy. But, once we are able to heal and prevent all illnesses, and stop, reverse, and prevent aging, physical immortality will happen, death will end, just like the Sages told us already.

We are invited to team up with G^d. Those of us who, on our own, can love all people, always be moral, and build our best lives, that’s OK too. As long as we merit His generosity. But, in the name of ‘religion,’ trying to ‘pacify’ or ‘help’ G^d, as if He’s a moody idol (you guessed it) is idolatry.

Since G^d is all about giving, to walk with Him, we need to be super generous. But, since we are human, we need to take care of our own basic needs first. Unless we found equals partners. Several people bigheartedly, each taking care of each other also lack nothing.

There are endless levels on which we may serve G^d. Not, insufficiently, borderline, minimally, eagerly, enthusiastically, intently, beautified, etc.

G^d has no needs. But, most of us do. So, His wishes only are to help us.

There are no contradictions between Orthodox Judaism on the one hand and Selfishness, Atheism, Humanism, and Empirical Sciences on the other. Incongruities only arise when other belief systems contaminated Judaism.

Actually, being an Orthodox Jews is the easiest. The easiest against burnout (Shabbat). The easiest to find great minds as role models (Jewish teachers, literature). The easiest to find and correct character flaws.

You shouldn’t agree with all of the above. If you do, you probably misread what I wrote. You’re supposed to be upset by it. If you left Orthodoxy, I say that you may not have had to do so. If you stayed, I tell you that you could be committing idolatry. And for everyone, I equate moral Atheism with Orthodoxy. (Only, what if you received your character traits, like humility, from religious grownups? How will you ensure that your youths and students have the same fine qualities?) Unless you’re an Angel already.

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. As a frontier thinker, he sees things many don't yet. He's half a prophet. Half. Let's not exaggerate. He 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 1500 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, 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. * 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.
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