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

Parashat Re’ei: How to have a Good, Blessed Life

Translation of the opening of this Portion of the week: See, [without pondering too much, that] I give [over] before you in the present [and so, every moment from now on, the concept of] blessing and curse (in this world, after the supernatural existence in the desert). The blessing will be [through] that you listen to the Commandments of your G^d that I command you presently [and that forever]. And the curse will materialize if you don’t … (Deuteronomy 11:26-28). As is written in the Mishna (Sayings of the Fathers 4:2): the reward for [performing] a Commandment is [performing that] Commandment, creating yourselves a good life. These words by Moses come to teach us: you want a Blessed Life, then listen to the Torah’s guidelines. Blessing doesn’t come from Above (compare Lamentations 3:38-39) but from if you behave properly.

After this clarification of blessing and of curse, the Torah starts to tell us of the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal. Well, Moses lost me there. What, for Heaven’s sake, are these mountains about? But just before Shabbat, I found this wonderful blog post The real message of Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal, which sheds a whole lot of light on them. Especially on how they compare to Mount Sinai. (I’m not going to summarize that rich post – please go read it yourself in total.) It is connecting our two mountains to the same ones mentioned 16 Chapters later (Deuteronomy 27:1-26) and what happens there. I will now add a tiny bit to that.

For me, what happened at the Mounts Sinai, Grizim and Ebal stands for instructions for a good life. I’ll accept that at both times this had the form of a Covenant, but the second time, it was not a new covenant but rather a further development of how it works to have a Good Blessed Life.

At Sinai, we just came out of slavery. To learn a completely new way, we needed to be sheltered and our miraculous existence in the desert was just that. The lesson was and had to be simple: do this and don’t do that, and we answered: we will (and later we’ll understand it – Exodus 24:7).

Even the directive was very simple when the Sages tell us (Talmud Shabbat 88a) that G^d turned the mountain upside-down over our heads and said: If you accept the Torah, it will be well for you and if not, your graves will be there. “There” meaning: there in Egypt. I wouldn’t have let you go if I knew that you would not go accept this now. (I heard this clarification from the Mizrachic Chief Rabbi of Gilo, Moshe Ben-Abu.) So don’t object now – this is your predetermined choice.

Now they are about to settle the Land, however, and miraculous protection will be less. Nature (G^d’s garment) will take care of us too – or not, dependent on us. We will need to settle the Land and work it (Genesis 3:17-19) and have children (Genesis 3:16).

With being now fit for a harder life, came also more advanced instruction. Not just dos and don’ts. Besides the good choice, now also came duality, enticement, wavering, short-term pleasure versus long-term pleasure.

At Sinai, there was one mountain, at entering the Land there were two.

At Sinai, there was just Dos and Don’ts and later pondering (Exodus 24:7). Even seeing and hearing fused as they all saw the thunder (Exodus 20:15). G^d even said at the same time “keep” and “remember” (Prayerbook, Friday night).

At the two mountains, there is seeing, meaning: don’t think too much – just do what’s right (Deuteronomy 11:6) and listening (Deuteronomy 11:27-28), pondering. There also appeared blessing opposite curse (Deuteronomy 11:26-28), good opposite bad, and life opposite death (Deuteronomy 30:15-19).

(There is a similar complication of the message from our Patriarchs before our Exile to Egypt, suddenly Jacob having two wives, two names and two places he felt good (the Land and Egypt) – “because then he was with Joseph” and balance between sternness and kindness in one person.)

Don’t get confused. Free Will still means: use it, choose life (and good and blessing) not: you now can go either way. We are still commanded to obey. But we got a higher alternative now. When you do what’s right, you’re not commanded anymore. Be you (your higher self) and you can obey without obeying. As Sayings of the Fathers 6:2 (based on Exodus 32:16) says: keeping the Torah and becoming free is the same thing. It’s harder than just following orders, but it is so much sweeter.

And that is Moses farewell message: Do as you really please. Do what makes you really happy. (Rosh Yeshiva Simcha (!) Wasserman advised me this.) Leave steadiness behind and develop into who you really are. The bad, curses or deaths will gradually disappear. Lechayim!

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 1400 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: https://mmvanzuiden.wordpress.com/ 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 (https://diethylstilbestrol.co.uk/studies/des-and-psychological-health/), 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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