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

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, 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. * 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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