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

Parashat Bahar: Speech and no speech

The beginning of a Bible Book should be extra special. And I think it is.

Midbar is an interesting word. The last letter is Reish which means Rosh — the beginning. Add the Letter Beit, you get Bar, meaning the wild. Add the Letter Dalled, you get D’var, meaning thing/word. Add the Mem, you get Midbar or M’daber (speaker). Midbar is a desert, a place where there’s no-thing/no-one, no word (A human is Creation’s M’daber, speaker), silence.

No-thing and no-sound we already meet after the first word of the Torah. In-the-Beginning-of [space]. When you look at a Torah scroll, you see a space, so what is written is: In the Beginning of Space. When it is read, you hear: At the Beginning of Silence. At the beginning, it was like a desert. In the desert, it was like a new beginning, a clean slate.

Taking us out of Egypt, He returns us to the beginning of Time. There, it was so still that you could hear G^d’s Voice and see His Presence. So, we came away with His Word (the Torah) and His Holy Abode (Tabernacle).

While we are counting the days (the Omer counting) to re-receive His Torah, our Weekly Portion recounts how G^d re-counts us. The Hebrew idiom for census-taking is to ‘lift head.’ Every Jew here counted on Rosh Chodesh lifts up our head, our beginning, Abraham — does him proud.


B’midbar Sinai is meant to contrast with B’har Sinai (Leviticus 25:1). The latter signifies that all our understanding and knowledge already comes from the Revelation ‘at Sinai’ — just like creating Heaven and Earth was one Divine deed on one day (Rashi on Genesis 2:4), unfolding over time — but things did happen after that in the wilderness.

The contrast also exists in our attitude. The time of the receiving of the Torah by Moses, the Ten Commandments by everyone as a summary, and the Stone Tables as their physical representation was one of: You’ll just tell us what to do and we will follow up, even before we fully comprehend it (Exodus 19:8, 24:3, 24:7). But the time in the wilderness was to become more: G^d orders, people (men) revolt, and G^d persist, in 40 years, cleansing us of this rebellious streak against G^d and just leadership.


Shamor vezachor b’dibur echad – He kept and remembered in one speech. That’s how L’chah Dodi expresses that for G^d, safekeeping (Exodus 20:8) and remembering to celebrate (Deuteronomy 5:12) the Shabbat are one thing/speech. Just like most Jews in Israel use one Benediction for the arm ((in)action) and the head (remembering) Phylacteries. Just like we light two candles for Shabbat, one in honor of keeping and on opposite remeberance, with making one Benediction and mentioning one candle.

Chodesh tov, have a great month.

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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