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

When conflicting opinions are both right

Famous is the story of the rabbi who invites one of his congregants and his wife to come by one evening to sit with the rabbi and his wife.

When they’re seated, each with something to eat and drink after their choice, the rabbi asks the husband: “Please tell me why you and your wife are always quarreling.” He obliges and the rabbi asks for all the details he can think of. After he told the whole story, the rabbi says to him with a smile: “You’re completely right.”

Now he turns to the wife. “Please tell me why you and your husband are always quarreling.” She tells it all and the rabbi asks for all the details he can think of. After she recounted the complete story, the rabbi says to her with a smile: “You’re completely right.”

Now the rebbetzin can’t take it any longer and blurts out: “First you say he’s completely right and then you say that she’s completely right — you can’t do that!”

The rabbi smiles again when he tells his wife: “Let me tell you — you’re completely right too.”

Though this is meant as a joke, deep wisdom is taught here. People don’t feel and see things for a good reason. That others see it differently does not invalidate their story. There is validity in each honest opinion.

Friends of mine actually stopped quarreling after I friendly told them this story. They now understood to take turns listening to each other and that there was no need to contrast their partner’s story with their own.


One level deeper goes when two Sages in the Talmud explain something in opposite ways. They both represent Absolute Truth. How could they be both right? But the Sages teach us that there are three challenges in such a case. To understand why each is right and lastly why both are right.

A case in point is the Torah telling us: “And a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph” (Exodus 1:8). One opinion is that this really was a new king, while another opinion holds that this was not really a new king but that he began to act as if he had not known Joseph. But how could that both be true?

The Torah is extremely precise. Let’s back up a bit and closely follow the text and all will become clear. (This is typically not true. Often a close reading of the Torah teaches more questions than answers.)

The Torah first repeats (from Genesis 46:5-27) that with Jacob, all the remaining offspring of his and their families (their houses here actually mean their wives) came to Egypt (Exodus 1:1). Then comes the list of the sons (Exodus 1:2-4.) And Joseph was already (with wife and two sons) in Egypt, totaling all the offspring 70 (Exodus 1:5). These two latter points are reversed in the verse because the next one will continue to talk about Joseph some more. He is mentioned in addition to his brothers to make the whole come out 70 and separately from his brothers because he was their leader.

Then it reads: “And Joseph, and all his brothers, and that entire generation died” (Exodus 1:6). Who is ” that entire generation”? His daughters, the spouses, and all the Gentiles of his generation — including Pharaoh.

So, if we read that Pharaoh had died, why do we need to read that a new king arose over Egypt? Because he was not a simple continuation of the previous Pharaoh. He had never seen Joseph. And very different is your understanding of someone you only heard or read about but actually never met.

So, he was an actually new king but his behavior towards the Jews was also significantly different. The tow opinions are both right and follow organically from the Torah text.

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 lehavdiel 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, GLBTQAI, 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 quit 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 500st 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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