Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews

Rescue the memory of Rabbi Steinsaltz as a person and authentic Jewish learning

On the 30th day of his passing, I feel that part of his memory has been misrepresented already by various well-meaning people. Many beautiful words have been spoken which are all good and sweet. But I miss an accent on something beyond his books, his writings, his teachings.

So many have said he was a once-in-a-millennium scholar, the Rashi of our time. Heaven forbid for equating the two! We know Rashi only through his super holy commentaries. Rav Steinsaltz walked among us. We saw him. We heard him. We said hello to him and saw the twinkle in his eyes.

Any human being is so much greater than a storehouse of knowledge or any specific message. Even more so, a saintly, humble person.

We should not just learn from books. We need life teachers. He was that to us. Let’s not reduce him to a text. Let’s remember the person he was. The personality he was. The greatness he rose to with exactly the same organs as our body has. It should humble us in comparison. It should obligate us to try harder. To accomplish more of our own life’s goals.

Yes, his mind was phenomenal. His commentaries will outlive us all. But his person should live on in us too. And we should pass on to others not just his words but also who we perceived he was. The master teacher who stayed a schoolboy. The conservative who was progressive. The skeptic who could never be outdone by any skeptic. The man who would always surprise you; not because again he had studied a new act, but because his authenticity made him alive and always a source of a fresh perspective. That’s how great a man can be. That’s an example to follow as much as we can. An inspiration and a rebuke at the same time. As we say: May his memory (not just his message) be a source of goodness (blessing).

This viewpoint isn’t only crucial for taking the Rav’s legacy into the future. It’s also essential for understanding what Jewish learning is about. It is not about acquiring knowledge or even skill. It’s about transforming ourselves. Not to become someone else. Rather, to more turn into ourselves. Not to proudly master Jewish teachings but to humbly let them master us.

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. * NEW: To see other blog posts by him, his overspill blog you can reach by clicking on the Website icon next to his picture at the head of every post. There you may find precursors to later TOI blog posts, addition or corrections of published TOI blog posts, blog posts the TOI will not carry, and some thoughts that are too short to be a TOI blog post. Also, the TOI only allows for one blog post per blogger per 24 hours. Sometimes, he has more to say than that. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me.
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