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

Post-Yom Kippur: G^d doesn’t hide His face and doesn’t move to the seat of mercy

I heard a rabbi claim that G^d loves us so much, He will never punish us. Rather, he claimed, when we misbehave badly, He hides His face. And then He lets chance hurt us as penalty. Not! This is nonsense in so many ways.

  1. He might hide His face for us, but He doesn’t stop looking at us. As my rabbi said it: He peeks at us through his fingers. Maybe it helps my rabbi that we are in Israel and see G^d’s hand everywhere and all the time. The rabbi that I quoted above lives in the Diaspora. About Jews living there, Nachmanides held: He who dwells outside of the land of Israel is like one who has no G^d. Sounds like it.
  2. The Maimonides took as one of his thirteen basic principles of Jewish faith: belief in Divine reward and punishment. Admittingly, it is hard to imagine how G^d, Who made us and loves us and has endless patience and energy, could punish at all. But then try: cleansing. Or better: Deterrence. Don’t deny G^dly retribution.
  3. It’s true that the Bible rhetorically asks: “Does bad emanate from above?” It implies that it doesn’t. Anything bad, we cause. Although it does say that bad and good do need Divine authorization.
  4. The Sages give various examples of irresponsible conduct (that we should not use to condemn people) that could make it seem that G^d abandoned us. When we could protect ourselves but don’t even attempt to, why should He? He doesn’t want to foster spoiled brats.
  5. Rather, when we act badly enough, we might end up feeling as if G^d hid His face from us, meaning: as if He ignores us. That is not a punishment from Him. That is our self-inflicted lot. He’s waiting for us to return to full communication. He never goes anywhere. (He is everywhere already.)

***

On Yom Kippur, we excessively admit to our collective sins. But, we pound our bend-over chest to take it to heart, just in case we also did some of this. G^d gives us a chance to admit, regret and repent, to receive a fresh start without old culpability. This is a great gift.

Even if we only fast (if we may), He will forgive it all.

An important part of the prayers is that we beseech G^d to show clemency, to move to the seat of mercy.

  1. But proper Jewish Prayer is self-reflection in the face of G^d.
  2. Yesterday, I got the strong impression that we don’t try to ask Him to sit in mercy, but rather, that we were trying to accept mercy ourselves. Mercy for ourselves and others. To see how far we can forgive while calling a sin a sin.
  3. Not in the classical-Christian sense that we forgive everything while seething from anger and bursting out in mass-murder every so often.
  4. One component of this outlook that helped me see this is the realization that G^d’s strictness is mercy too.
  5. One heavy-handed example. The death of people is the worst evil there is. But, if people would never die but do get sick, later age groups need to take care of dozens of generations of ancestors. How could we ever raise our children sufficiently? Now life expectancy has improved, we already have the sandwich generation, squeezed between taking care of its parents and children. On top of the promises that death will end and the dead will be revived, human death is merciful, while we’re still becoming sick, crippled, and dependent. Doctors work on ending all sickness. Hang in there.

***

Why do we ask G^d to have mercy on us for our sins in the evening prayer after Yom Kippur? He just forgave us everything. We feel cleansed. Is this not a wasteful prayer—we are not allowed to utter? No, certainly not.

  1. Are you happy the Day of Atonement is over? Sin.
  2. Are you sad it’s over? Sin.
  3. Do you now again rush through the prayers? Sin.
  4. Do you feel invincibly righteous now? Sin.
  5. G^d can only forgive sins regarding Him. But damages that we perpetrated on others, first need their forgiveness. Do you read papers? Do you follow the news? Do you know what mess the world is in? A billion people don’t have enough food every day (not just on Yom Kippur). Pollution is endangering our survival. And you refuse to be an activist and are just seeking comfort. Is there a greater sin?
  6. While we ended Yom Kippur, others in other time zones are still in the middle of it. Their unforgiven sins count too. Let’s not be so self-absorbed to assume that it’s all about us.

Have a great year, all of us—and them.

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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