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

Repentance from fear or love

Everybody knows, everybody knows, that there are two ways to better your life. You can improve yourself from fear or from love.

You can decide that you want to live by a higher standard from now on because you’re afraid of the consequences if you don’t. Or you would like to feel better or get more reward. That is very sweet.

But then there is the option to live a more holy life but to decide that, with no strings attached. You want a new way because that fits you best. Because that’s acknowledging the highest truth you know. You don’t love because it pays. True love is for free, without wanting to gain anything.

When you repent from fear, all your past sins are wiped out. It never happened. This is fantastic. (If you wronged others, of course, you first need to compensate for what you did to them and assure their forgiveness. But after that, G^d erases the sin.)

But, when you repent from love, it gets even better. All your guilt becomes merit. You didn’t go astray. You did everything exactly to bring you to where you are today. You actually already always, lived in keeping with your new you.

What does that mean?

It means that in the first case, you’re not ever again reminded of your old mistakes. They won’t bug you or bring you down. A clean past. No worry.

But in the second case, your old mistakes are with you all the time and they push you up, not down. Everything you ever did lead to who you are today. It was all for the best.

Meeting an old friend

You might run into an old friend who says: Look at you! I remember you quite differently. Don’t you pretend to me, I know exactly who you are.

Maybe, he spotted a trifle of arrogance that prompted him to bring you to more humility for your sake. Or maybe, he wasn’t feeling well and didn’t realize that such a remark could be hard to handle.

If you repented from fear, such a reminder can be unpleasant. The Rabbis teach we should never say such a thing. Even if your high school diploma has only straight A’s, who knows what would happen if you had to redo the tests? Even after a day. Let alone, after years. There are no guarantees.

But, if you repented from love, you say to your friend, thank you for reminding me. Yes, I’m so proud of my hard work. And happy with these memories. They help me realize and appreciate each day and every second how good I have it now. Thank you for the reminder. May I give you a hug?

So, if you’re ever unpleasantly reminded of old mistakes, decide to own them. Don’t run away from the past any longer but embrace it. Don’t float. Stand steady on a solid bed of memories. Thank you for reminding me.

Really, I was never obligated, once I found how to do everything from love. Obligations are for when we forget what we really would like to do, who we really like to be, who we really are. I don’t have to. I want.

Inspired by The Torah Commentary of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, 2013, Urim, Volume Genesis II, page 54. May the whole series appear in print soon.

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, a daily blog contributor to the TOI. He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (, born in 1953 to two Dutch survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork, and holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam). He taught Re-evaluation Co-counseling, became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. 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 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. * Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years, he wrote hasbara for the Dutch public. His fields of attention now are varied: Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (statistics), Politics (Israel, the US and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight Truth), 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), Ecology and Veganism. Sometimes he's misunderstood because he has such a wide vision that never fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what many love about him. Many of his posts relate to affairs from the news or the Torah Portion of the Week or are new insights that suddenly befell him. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, reassure the doubters but make the self-assured doubt more. He strives to bring a fresh perspective rather than bore you with the obvious. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds must be disputed. In short, his main political positions are: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, democracy, anti the fake peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, Science, Free Will, anti blaming-the-victim and for down-to-earth optimism. Read his blog how he attempts to bridge any discrepancies. He admits sometimes exaggerating 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. * 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. November 13, 2018, he published his 500th blog post with the ToI. 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 a peek outside of your cultural bubble. * To find his earlier blog posts on a certain subject XXX among the over 1200 ones, go to the right-top corner of the Times of Israel page, click on the search icon, and search: "zuiden, XXX". * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me.
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