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

The Torah Commandments are to live by, also for women

It is a general principle of Jewish Law that, besides very rare situations, we should execute Judaism in a way that lets us live. That means that Judaism does not ask us to endanger or end our physical health. The Babylonian Talmud (Sanhedrin 74a) explains the Torah verse Leviticus 18:5 to mean that one, in general, must violate the Commandments rather than die. How much more so must one choose life in cases one is not obligated. A woman isn’t obligated to marry because childbirth can endanger her life!

There is a news report that a certain Rabbinic Court in Israel now has refused to arrange divorce procedures in a case of a husband who was convicted for threatening his wife’s life. This must be such a mistake.

Jews are not Catholics, at least: not most of us. The Hebrew Bible makes clear that when love turns into hatred, it’s time for the husband to give his wife a divorce. Unfortunately, in the case of chronically violent men, there never was love — from his side. Only the lust to possess. I would nullify such a fake marriage (no divorce needed) but I’m not a rabbi.

Generally, Rabbinic Courts are very cautious with enabling divorce. I like that. The fact that you quarrel all the time might indicate a need to stop bickering. It’s not a ground for divorce. That fact that you make each other crazy doesn’t mean that you should part ways. Have you tried therapy?

Yet, a threat to life means it’s over. When your spouse threatened your life, you have one overriding Commandment to follow: run. The rule is: first get to safety. You could later decide to try to patch it up. (But don’t.)

I would even say that it is enough when you just feel that your life is in danger though you can’t prove anything. Even if the greatest specialists in the world would swear that you’re safe, your feelings dictate the action.

I would say it’s the same as fasting on Yom Kippur. Even if the greatest specialists in the world would swear that you’re safe to fast, when you feel you are not, you must eat. No one knows you like you. That’s Jewish Law.

Another thing is that as a therapist or judge, I would go against the trends of the day. If everyone says: You should feel happy, get a divorce, I would say: not so quick. But in the case of violent spouses, the victims generally love their partners, being the giving and naive types. (Would-be abusers would only marry such people.) And most of the time, they realize all the trouble of being divorced. It doesn’t look like paradise on earth. You don’t discourage such people. You say: Play it safe — and help them get there. You can always change your mind later, when you’re safe already.

Judges, except for the greatest, follow public opinion and pressure. (The greatest, typically, are ahead of the curve and public opinion.) They will always maintain that the criteria for their rulings cannot be tinkered with but in real life, we see that’s not true. I hope this blog post will add a little pressure to a wave of indignation that should help these judges see that endangered women must be supported in their right to life immediately.

NB: Every Jewish couple must sign a prenuptial agreement. Especially the nice ones not fearing anything. If you don’t do this because you’re safe, you’re enabling would-be abusers. They could pressure their upcoming naive victims that, of course, they don’t need such a thing. Besides, even the nicest people can turn into revengeful spiteful monsters at a divorce.

Full disclosure: I’m a relationship therapist. I’ve helped save marriages of couples who were both certain that divorce would make them both happy. They’re so grateful to me. But I’ve also had the experience and guts to say to spouses: get a divorce still today, if you can. This will never work. However, I’m on pension and not looking for work.

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 his over 1200 ones, go to the right-top corner of the Times of Israel page, click on the search icon and search "zuiden, XXX". His second daily active less tame blog, to which one may subscribe, one may find here: or by clicking on the globe icon next to his picture on top. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me.
Related Topics
Related Posts