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

Teaching Judaism via humor

Once, when I already had become religious and I read the funniest and most complete collection of Jewish Jokes I’ve ever seen, Der jüdische Witze by Salcia Landmann, I said to myself, If I ever have time, I should write a book that teaches Judaism through Jewish jokes. Two examples.

The soldiers Moishele and Shloimele get to guard the ammunition depot Friday night. Moish wants to light a cigarette. No, shouts Shlomi, that’s forbidden! Ah, answers his friend laconically, so many things are forbidden. I’m not that religious.

Then, my book should say something about why smoking is forbidden on Shabbat but once was allowed on the Festivals. The advantages of keeping that Injunction. The importance of guarding one’s health and saving lives.

The vicar and the rabbi of the village are friends. One very warm day, they are walking in the woods together, talking, as always, as they get to a lake. Yeah, says the Jewish teacher, let’s go for a swim. The Catholic shepherd replies, frightened, but we don’t have any bathing suits with us. His Jewish colleague doesn’t see a problem. It’s so hot; who could come by and see us? Just when they’re stark-naked ankle-deep in the cooling water, the local bus passes by. The vigor quickly covers his crotch but the rabbi covers his face. When the ordeal is over, the former asks, Why did you cover your face? O, is the answer, me they know by my face.

So much to unpack there. That the third, and supposedly most painful day, after Abraham’s circumcision, he’s sitting at the heat of the day at the entrance to his tent, waiting for visitors. That G^d made it very hot to spare him the physical pain of running around to be a perfect host. But when the first Patriarch showed his eagerness anyway, He sent three Angels. That the Talmud explains that men are forbidden to cover their crotch because it’s as if one is ashamed of their circumcision. That there is nothing shameful of nakedness and sexuality. Rather, that they are not dirty but sacred, not to be taken lightly or abused. That Judaism does not believe in life-long celibacy as humanly possible for most men. And, Jewish Law must be tenable for the average person.

And so my book would teach Judaism through jokes. Maybe someone else is willing to steal the idea? So many decades later, people don’t read so much anymore. They watch. So lots of visual humor is published.

We had The Life of Brian, a full-length movie making fun of Jesus (and his mother). From the country where they mercilessly make fun of dying and the queen (Monty Piton). Would never happen in the Netherlands. Last satirical mention of a Dutch royal was in 1966 when in a cabaret song, it was suggested that Queen Juliana was just a silly old simpleton.

Fundamentalist Christians were pained about the lack of respect for Jesus, whom they regard a godly rather than human. Blasphemy it was deemed.

In contrast, Jews don’t think that the highest human needs to be Divine or to be unrelated to sex. The High Priest cannot even ask forgiveness for the Jewish People on Yom Kippur if he’s unmarried. Nor will the Messiah show up without spouse. And the extra-religious, the Biblical nazarite, refrains from touching the dead and from wine products–but not from sex.

And the nazarite needs to bring a sin offering at the end of his abstinence. One Talmudic opinion is that the sin was breaking off his extremist service. But another view holds that his sin was withholding himself from some of the worldly pleasure granted to mankind. (Which always must be enjoyed in moderation, within a certain framework, to show that the person is in charge chose the pleasure and is not enrolled in enslavement to pleasure.)

Fanatical Muslims threatened to kill those maligning or even normalizing or even depicting Mohamed. Jews teach that we are not allowed to depict G^d but this limit does not extend to humans. Nevertheless, Middle-Age portrays of humans in religious-Jewish texts depict people with the heads of birds. And some modern ultra-religious Jewish illustrators and painters always make sure to paint human heads from the back or faceless because humans are created in G^d’s image. But that’s a stringency–not an obligation. No Jew ever threatened anyone for depicting Moses.

But now finally, we have “The Jews are coming.” An Israeli satirical TV program than makes fun of our holiest teachings. I saw some clips on YouTube. It’s really well-done. The clips that I saw come in different categories:

1. Making fun of Ashkenazic Diaspora Jews
2. Making fun of Antisemitism and even the Holocaust.
3. Making fun of Mizrachic Jews.
4. Making fun of one or the other Torah or Biblical story.
5. Making fun of one or the other Jewish belief.
6. Longer clips with several of the above.
7. Making fun of Israeli sensitivities (here: without English subtitles).

Also Arab viewers enjoy it (the Sacrifice of Isaac).

Probably no coincidence that the clip of Noach with English is removed.

None of it for the faint of heart faith!!

Finally, after 11 seasons, an angry crowd protested against the channel’s blasphemy. That’s really the funniest. I assume these are actors, hired by the TV broadcasting cooperation. I mean, whom of these supposedly ultra-Orthodox activists has a TV or Internet to ‘be offended’ by this? In truth, most demonstrators are probably some traditional Jews who don’t know much Judaism. Anger and fanaticism are always hallmarks of insecurity.

We now only need a seriously Orthodox rabbi who uses these clips for a laugh and then does what I suggested above, teach based on them.

Seriousness relates to ridicule as love to anger. Their common opposite is indifference.

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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