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

Religious Jews should be secular!

If you thought that being religious and being secular are opposites and incompatible, think again.

For starters, not all non-Orthodox Jews or Jews who are not into Judaism are opposed to religion, holiness or mysticism. Many are Buddhists or spiritually involved in other ways. So juxtaposing Orthodox and secular Jews is false. For the sake of simplicity, we will here ignore religious Jews who are pious but not in any of the ages-old traditional Jewish ways. Also, will we not focus on Gentiles; just on traditional vs. secular Jews.

1. Ever heard of: religious Jews should bring Judaism to the secular? That is kind of arrogant. And haughtiness is a hallmark of our enemies as different from Jews.

Being civil is not just part of being Orthodox. It precedes it. Presently, there are more religious laws concerning our behavior towards our fellow human beings than concerning G^d alone. And often, the secular are better at it.

There might be no higher morality than Jewish ethics but that doesn’t imply that religious Jews are the most ethical. If anything, many secular people spend all their moral relational energy on people around them (as they have no need for vertical relationships) and therefore are experts in that.

It’s not true that secular ethics must be all hedonism and selfishness. Many secular Jews exemplarily care most about people in trouble (including strangers), animals, not ruining the landscape, nature and the climate. That is 100% Judaism, which is both praying and acting – not just praying.

So, go learn from the secular, before you pretend you could teach them.

Being a good Orthodox Jew is being generous. So teach. But when you do, know that you’ll learn most from your students (Ta’anit 7a). (Thus, you first must be so grounded in Judaism, that nothing could “unjew” you – Reb Shlomo Carlebach’s recipe.)

2. When you or others are in danger, you first do anything to bring as much safety as possible. Only then you add trust in G^d.

You may ask for G^d’s help while trying to save souls and act more calmly as a result, but you act as a secular nonetheless.

When others need you, don’t bless them instead of helping them. Help them as if you are an Atheist (- I forgot which rabbi said this).

3. G^d declares that it’s not good to be alone with Him. So, He should not be part of that equation. Have a partner and be a spouse without claiming that it would be enough to be with Him. Rely on His Word.

The question is not if we are alone in the universe – if G^d or aliens “exist.” The question is how not to be lonely on Earth.

4. If you’re not a humanist, you’re not much of a Jew. If you’re not (partly) a hedonist, you’re not practicing Judaism. G^d is not jealous when you have it good. Rather, when you have a ball, you resemble Him.

When you’re depressed, you can’t connect with Him (in prayer), He can’t connect with you (in prophecy) and you can’t connect with others. That’s why above all things, we make groom and bride happy, says Reb Shlomo.

Reb Shlomo also teaches, Whatever distances you from people distances you from G^d. When you get closer to G^d, you’ll get closer to people.

5. To disgrace G^d, one must be religious. But to make Him a good Name, being a smart friendly humble loving pacifist Jew is enough, Einstein proved.

Truth, Reality, Love and Goodness are no private property of any school of thought or lifestyle. If you fear what others think, do, know or value, you are not solid in your own way of life.

Being an extreme secularist or an extreme religious Jew shows that you’re scared and insecure. Judaism advocates living by the Golden Mean. Fanaticism and intolerance don’t look good. Jews who fail to integrate being secular and religious and instead flip from one extreme to the other were raised with too much extremism.

Judaism should be grounded in this physical world but ages of inroads by religions that put their emphasis on the next world and on the beyond have distorted our religion. Learning from secular scientists and down-to-earth people can return us to true grounded Judaism.

Secular Jews would not so quickly insult groups of innocent people because of what is written and first of all see them as fellow-humans. Are you that sensitive not to hurt anyone?

6. Not when you pray, you show you believe in G^d, but when you’re honest, meek, generous, friendly, you show that you’re above the Law of the Jungle.

7. Only those who believe in human Free Will and autonomy to improve themselves, may truly believe in the all-powerful G^d of Judaism.

If you believe you must believe in G^d, you are like Atheists who must not believe and you don’t seem a religious Jew. Saying you can’t live without G^d is using Him as a transitional object.

Being religious must be a free choice. You may use belief in Reward and Punishment a little, but if too much, it shows you’re in it for gain or dread, and not to serve Him. Which is actually a form of idolatry. Which is actually much lower than secularism trying to improve life on earth for all – even if you put on two sets of tefilin every weekday.

8. The secular, they hope for Good Fortune much like the religious pray for Personal Providence. Frankly, there’s not much of a difference.

9. Many of the secular desperately want to be free and “themselves.” There is no greater freedom and push to becoming who we really are than through keeping Jewish Law. A Jewish religious upbringing is a lifelong support against enslavement to drives and feelings.

10. If you can get to 10, it looks more serious. Being overly serious is a sign of Atheism. The Sages teach, if you make people laugh constantly (and have peace between them), you go to Heaven, no questions asked (Ta’anit, 22a). Being friendly (Smile!) is more important than talking to G^d (Genesis 18:1-2). G^d manages without us.

Bonus: What to do when an Orthodox partner is married to a secular Jew?

An excellent marriage is two people giving and receiving generously and plentily. A terrible relationship is two people trying to take enough from each other.

So the secular spouse needs to give what is necessary and wished for by the other and vice versa, as much as possible:

  • I’ll buy you separate kitchen stuff so that you can cook and eat whatever you want.
  • I’ll do the bedikot and go to the mikva. So, I’ll go the same day.
  • We’ll each teach our kids our own values and believes but in moderation. We will give them permission to (not) believe.
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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