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

Reb Shlomo Carlebach was not Dr. Feel-good

Let’s cut out this sweetest of ignorance that can be most destructive

I’m a second-generation Carlebach-nik, but I’ve learned a thing or two about the message that Reb Shlomo was spreading.

Reb Shlomo never told anyone what to do. He just embraced people.

He even gave concerts in Poland after the War. People said: But, Shlomo, how could you? He said: Someone has to bring the Light there. He believed in giving support to Jews and Gentiles for things to work out better.

If someone would have confronted him by his life “I feel violated by the way you touched or talked to me,” He wouldn’t have played G^d, deciding who’s right and who’s wrong. He would have opened up his heart so widely and said: Oh, I’m so sorry. And, I’m sure he’d have meant it.

The first blessing of our main prayer is summarized as G^d being the Shield of Abraham, while all Patriarchs are mentioned. Why is that? Because he was fueled by loving-kindness, and in the end, that’s the greatest gift.

Less Can Be More

Yet, his big-hearted system has a weakness. When you generously spread around your support, you also reinforce people who need to be stopped.

Surely, often, when we embrace a person who’s in a negative mood, no questions asked, we improve the situation and his chances to do good.

And if that’s all we do in our life, we do a better job than being judgmental and pushing everyone away because no one is good enough for praise.

The most innocent (but annoying) example to resist is turning Shlomo’s songs into lullabies or, reversely, disco music. These were brought down to serve Humanity and G^d, not to make us switch off. And also not, to make us aggressively and inconsiderately ‘dancing’ away others from our brain.

Far worse is not noticing that empowering con artists doesn’t make them become more humane. Some people should notice that deeply selfish, hateful people sometimes sink deeper when you smile at them and praise them; even if you persist. True, not always; sometimes.

Let’s Serve G^d, Not Happiness

I’ll give you an analogy. Jews should be honest. But, honesty is not our G^d. Our G^d is honest but honesty is not our idol. We don’t serve honesty. We serve G^d as honestly as we can. And sometimes, we must lie (a bit) to not be needlessly cruel or endanger the innocent.

In the same way, we should be upbeat, friendly, appreciative, hopeful, giving, forgiving, grateful, generous, you name it. But being positive should not be our idol. We should serve G^d, mainly positively. And then, we sometimes need to say No or Stop, resolutely, if we can with a smile.

Being friendly is not the goal; it’s a means. Everyone deserves our delight; but some Souls, at this very moment, are longing to hear Stop. Not even because they became the embodiment of Evil. Just, they’re not fit for your generosity. You don’t give money to a junky. That’s not being charitable.

The Hebrew Bible tells us that the Jewish way is pleasant and peaceful. And Shlomo’s ways were definitely pleasant. But the Talmud also warns that if you’re good to the wicked, you’ll end up being wicked to the good.

You could see this a bit in how Reb Shlomo sternly reacted to missionary activity toward the Jews, trying to finish Hitler’s work. But not always. I remember the story of Reb Shlomo sitting in an airplane next to a Cardinal who started preaching the Gospels to him. Shlomo quickly dosed off only to awaken when the plane started its descent, and his Eminence was still talking. So, Reb Shlomo opened one eye and asked him: Do you believe all this nonsense yourself? Startled, Priest admits No. Then why do you want me to believe it? I once brought a young missionary to tears when I retorted his quest ‘to save’ me by confessing that I deeply believed in his innate goodness and innocence, that G^d had created him perfect and that he didn’t need to be saved. And this was before I became religious!

But, I met fake and con-artist Shlomo-niks who were widely and broadly supported by Reb Shlomo. So sweet, so nauseating, so dishonest, so fake, so confusing. Was he imitating Yitzchak Avinu showering love on Esav in the hope it would turn him around eventually? Or, were they both fooled too, as almost everyone, by their protégés’ fake sweetness? I can’t tell.

I can only say: Let’s stop being naïve and indiscriminative. Being positive may do very negative things. Let’s always use our hearts and brains.

When in doubt, by default, we can be loving. But watch out for warning signs. Reb Shlomo also attracts bullies. They’re lonely and cold and don’t know how to return to the land of humans. But, one rotten apple can infect the whole lot. Beware of the rare exceptions who may endanger.

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, an almost daily blog contributor to the Times of Israel, and previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. 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. * 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 about what (lack of) backgrounds, experiences, and education contribute to his visions. * If you don't know the Dutch, get an American peek behind the scenes here: https://youtu.be/QMPp6h6r72M * To find less-recent posts on subject XXX among his over 1600 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/. * Like most of his readers, he believes in being friendly, respectful, and loyal. Yet, 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 who don't deserve that. 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), 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. * 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. * 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. 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, anti-elitism, anti-bigotry and supremacy, for Zionism, Intersectionality, and 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. * He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (https://diethylstilbestrol.co.uk/studies/des-and-psychological-health/), born in 1953 to 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. Bullies and con artists almost instantaneously envy and hate him. * 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, empowering therapist. He became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids non-violently. 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 being a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. He lives with his library in Jerusalem. Feel free to contact him. * His writing has been made possible by a (second-generation) Holocaust survivors' allowance 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: https://www.amazon.com/s?i=stripbooks&rh=p_27%3AMoshe-Mordechai%2FMaurits+van+Zuiden&s=relevancerank&text=Moshe-Mordechai%2FMaurits+van+Zuiden&ref=dp_byline_sr_book_1
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