Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
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Parashat B’har: give and receive

Our weekly Portion opens with something astonishing. It says (Leviticus 25:2) that the Land will observe Shabbat (Shmita). This should immediately lead to the following questions: 1. What is Shmita doing so prominently in the Book of Leviticus, that deals with the Temple service and the Priests? 2. Why doesn’t it say anywhere in the Torah that the Seventh Day rested, but it does say that the Land rested? 3. What relevance does this have today?

The difference between the Day of Rest and the Land at Rest is that the first is holiness in Time, the second is holiness of Space. That explains immediately why this is notably discussed in Leviticus, which deals with holiness of place.

What is the difference between Place and Time? One can become owner of the former, not of the latter. One can buy a piece of land and put a fence around it with a notice revealing the owner and directions like: don’t enter, don’t touch. That is impossible with time. One could say “I gave of my time” and “I can do in my own time as I want” but one can’t say: I bought next week’s Thursday, and I decide who can enter or not. What does this Land ownership matter?

G^d soon in our Portion (Leviticus  25:23) tells us: the Land is Mine – He is the owner. True, He promised it to our Forefathers (Genesis 12:7, 15:18, 28:4, 35:12, 50:24, Exodus 6:8, 6:10, Leviticus 26:42, 26:25, Numbers 11:12, Deuteronomy 1:8, 1:35, 6:10, 7:13, 8:1, 11:9, 30:5, 34:4, Joshua 1:6, 21:43, 1 Kings 8:40, 2 Kings 21:8, Ezekiel 20:42, 33:24, 36:28, 37:25, 47:14, 2 Chronicles 20:7, 33:8, Isaiah 14:1, Jeremiah 7:7, 11:5, 24:10, 25:5, 30:3, 32:22, Nehemiah 9:36) but He gave us it to work it and to harvest, to sell it and to buy it, and to live in it, as is hinted in (Leviticus 25:38): “I am G^d, the Eternal One of yours, Who took you out of the Land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan, to be for all of you as your Eternal One.” Don’t read: “to give you the land of Canaan, to be for all of you as your Eternal One” but “to give you the land of Canaan to be.” If you want to be possessive, you can have Me, “for all of you as your Eternal One” – I won’t get hurt.

The Land is ours to use, not abuse. We need to behave as proper guests because the holy Land has needs, rules and sensitivities. It itself keeps Shmita. If we don’t join her in that, we violate her – and she will spit us out (Leviticus 18:25, 18:28, 20:22, 26:43, Sayings of the Fathers 5:11-12!). How can we ascribe human qualities like sensitivity and regurgitation to something as subhuman as the Land? The same way as the stomach, though having no brain, knows when to empty out poison: it’s built-in wisdom.

This is not so different from a Jewish man who marries a Jewish woman. Now he can be in her house (not for nothing, the Hebrew word for Land is female), but not to trash it, boss her around or exploit her. She has needs, rules and sensitivities. This is a very important training for married men: to give, give and give. Life is not give and take – it’s give and receive.

And women should just receive, receive, receive? Yes, they should, but most women, either by Nature or as second nature from their upbringing are givers already. Often their giving is too humble and hidden to notice for beginning selfish self-centered chauvinist self-entitled husbands. Jewish Law acknowledges and corrects that.

And that is not the end of this story. As soon as the children come, proper parents will both be giving beyond their means. The baby has unsubstitutable needs and your headache should be put on the back burner (down with the pacifiers!). I often say to new parents: And you thought that you knew the meaning of the word “tired.”

When children have their needs met (not to be confused with withholding responsibilities and not saying “no” when you should, which is truly spoiling them), then they will grow up to be people who in turn are ready to give to their children. Just as Rabbi E.E. Dessler says: The only thing the Torah wants to do is to turn us from babies who need to receive everything, into grown-ups who are capable of giving. And not just our babies need us. The whole world has unmet needs and is waiting for our generosity.

The last Lubavitcher Rebbe clearly had decided that he was on earth just to give. So he would not have any of it when I met him and blessed him. He blessed me numerous times and then explained: true receiving comes from giving.

Written in honor of the birth of the firstborn of my firstborn.

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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