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

What’s with Moses’ counting?

If the Torah is extremely precise, how come we read these numbers?

Noach 950 or 951?

Noach lived 600 years before the Flood, the Flood lasted over a year, he lived 350 years after the Flood, and he lived till the age of 950. Huh?

Jacob 69 or 70?

With 70 Souls from his loins, Jacob went down to Egypt. Count the names, and you get 69. One of Leah’s (grand)children is counted but not named.

Rashi suggests (full honors for trying) that Jochebed was number 70. Yes, Moses says she was born to Levi in Egypt, but Rashi says she was born as they were entering the Land of Egypt. A border(line) case?

Yet, in the Torah, 70 means ‘many.’ We find 70 ways to grasp the Torah. That’s not restrictive. There are 70 Gentile Nations. Maybe this shouldn’t be taken literally? Unlikely! The Rabbis identify the 70 Peoples by name.

Moses’ Tribe Seizes?

Every time Moses counts the Tribes, he gets to numbers dividable by 1000, 100, or at least 50. Why these round numbers? Every head was carefully, lovingly counted individually. These were not rough estimates.

At larger numbers, the Torah rounds off? Like carpenters count: 2 (duplex), 3 (triplex), many (multiplex)? Or Christians: 1 (Monotheism), 2 (Dualism), 3 (Trinity), many (Polytheism)? Or physicians: 1 (single), 2 (double), 3 (triple), 4 (quadruple), many (multi-)?



When Jewish Law counts days (for a nida, brit milah, pidyon haben, shiva), the smallest part of a first and a last day are each regarded as a full day. The Talmud tells us that an animal of two years and a day is considered three years old. So, two years in the Torah could easily mean 1 year and a day at least. When the Torah means a full year, it says so. Joseph had to sit in jail for another 2 full years—literally: until the end of two years of days.

Western culture does a similar thing. As soon as we have our Xth birthday, we will be in our X+1 years of age. So, when the Torah writes about an animal “of two years,” properly translated, it’s in its second year of life.

So, Noach’s “600 years” is 599 and a day at least. The Flood is 1 year and 11 days. And, “350 years” is 349 years and 1 day at least. Add it up, and you come to 949 years and 13 days at least: “950 years.” Since he was a Tzaddik, I’m sure he died on his birthday, exactly, to the day, at 950 years.


The Rabbis say that Joseph’s wife, Assenat, was adopted by the Potiphar family. She was the biological daughter of the rape of Dinah by Shechem. Lo and behold, she is mentioned in the list of 70, innocently as Joseph’s wife because her old family connection is painful so it’s left open which person is missing from Leah’s offspring, also of Jacob’s loins, but it’s her.

(These 70 are Jacob’s descendants. The daughters-in-law aren’t included.)


I don’t know an answer to why the counts of the Tribes give such round numbers. Were they intended to make reporting by Moses easier? Was it a miracle to tell us that, while everyone counts (pun intended), one more or less wouldn’t have made a difference in the history of the Jews?

When you know or find an answer, please let me know.

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, an almost daily blog contributor to the Times of Israel, and previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. 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. * As a frontier thinker, he sees things many don't yet. He's half a prophet. Half. Let's not exaggerate. He doesn't believe that people observe and think in a vacuum. He, therefore, wanted a broad bio that readers interested can track a bit about what (lack of) backgrounds, experiences, and education contribute to his visions. * If you don't know the Dutch, get an American peek behind the scenes here: * To find less-recent posts on subject XXX among his over 1600 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, here: * Like most of his readers, he believes in being friendly, respectful, and loyal. Yet, 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 who don't deserve that. 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), 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. * 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. * 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. 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, anti-elitism, anti-bigotry and supremacy, for Zionism, Intersectionality, and 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. * He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (, born in 1953 to 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. Bullies and con artists almost instantaneously envy and hate him. * 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, empowering therapist. He became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids non-violently. 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 being a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. He lives with his library in Jerusalem. Feel free to contact him. * His writing has been made possible by a (second-generation) Holocaust survivors' allowance 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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