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

Subtle Jewish rituals

A couple of them come to mind I would like to share.

Dutch Chief Rabbi Meir Just OBM was a man of understatements. A rabbi of short stature but of international greatness. Born in Hungary, he left this world much too early at the age of 102. He rests on the Mount of Olives. He did our chuppah. After signing o the ketubah, he said: We now proceed with the throwing of rice. A small bowl of uncooked rice stood on the table between us. My wife-to-be was afraid to get it in her sheitel; I was worried it would get into my beard. You know what this is for, he asked. I said: Sure, for fertility. Nothing insignificant because, together, we were already over 80. And for livelihood, he said. His hand went to the bowl. He took out three kernels of rice and placed them on the table. The ‘throwing of rice!’ One of my children recently said: And you had three children.

Reb Shlomo Carlebach, known for his songs, guitar playing, dancing, and stories, often advocated love and pleaded against hate. He even warned against hatred for evil people. Many a child and grownup enjoy making lots of noise when the name of Haman is read from the Esther scroll. Stamping, clapping, rattling, firecrackers, etc. But he would only do so at the first mention of Haman. That’s it. When overdone, hatred can jump from against the wicked to relationships between good people.

I was new to religious Judaism when I heard: You could say: ‘Why do all these small things? That must be for very committed Jews.’ But, hey, if you won’t even do the small things, how will you get to the big things? My current rabbi says: You can always make a small improvement. That’s how you can build progress. One word of anger less. One cigarette less.

At the end of the Hoshannah Rabbah morning service, the day before Simchat Torah, the custom is that beat five willow branches bound together against the floor. Some do that in the synagogue, others outside. Some beat as if it is a rug to clean. In Amsterdam, we did this in the synagogue. Five light taps on the floor. It would be common, after that, to maybe find one leaf on the floor. Not like in a forest.

The kiddush has the words: ‘And on the seventh day, He stopped, and revived.’ If you put a dot in the B, ב, you changed Shavvat into Shabbat, and you say totally something else: And on the seventh day it was Shabbat and He revived. Then, the Prayers have: ‘A remembrance of the Deeds of the Beginning (of Creation).’ If you put a dot in the B, it absurdly means: ‘At the Beginning (of Creation), there is a remembrance of the deeds.’ Or take: ‘He blesses His People (and their friends) with peace.’ Put a dot in the B and it becomes: ‘In peace, He blesses His People (and their friends). Before you drink the grape juice, you hopefully honor: ‘the Creator of the fruit of the vine.’ But if you omit the dot in the P, פ, and say not’ P’ree,’ but ‘F’ree’, atheistically, you say: ‘The vine is the creator of the fruit.’ Just like the culinary difference between “Let’s eat grandma” and “Let’s eat, grandma.”

Recently, someone in shul, younger than me but already on pension too, looked worn out. After the service, I told him: May Hashem soon return to you your energy and happiness. He immediately smiled and said: ‘Does it look so bad?’ It did. Reb Shlomo called that: I fixed him. I did nothing big. The next day, I saw him on my way out. He came to the second Minyan: I overslept. He looked guilty. I said: May it be for your health. He said: Amen. Small things. Have a nice day. Enjoy the holidays. Today is the death day of Rabbi Nachman ben Simchah of Breslav. Let’s be happy in his honor.

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. He's proud that his analytical short comments are removed both from left-wing and right-wing news sites. None of his content is generated by the new bore on the block, AI. * As a frontier thinker, he sees things many don't yet. He's half a prophet. Half. Let's not exaggerate. Or not at all because he doesn't claim G^d talks to him. He gives him good ideas—that's all. MM 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 2000 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 too, here: 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. 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. 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 (, 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. * His newest books you may find here:
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