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

Why ask the rabbi?

Not for the religious faint of heart

I once told my rabbi: ‘I don’t want your ruling in an area where I consider myself an expert, but I would like your opinion to take into account.’ He gave me his thoughts and then added a friendly: Just, be careful.

Before I got married, my rabbi said: ‘You were in medical school so I don’t need to educate you about sex.’ I agreed but said: ‘I would like to hear it now from a kosher mouth.’ So, he told me one central idea about sex.

Here are several reasons to ask a rabbi, from elevated to down-to-earth.


The last Lubavitcher Rebbe is the only one in this category. One could say he also was all of the below other categories. He was seen by many, Jews and Gentiles, as having the Holy Spirit, as a mystic and having the wisdom of an older person, being a true specialist in Jewish Law and the ultimate teacher, selfless to a level only seen in the greatest, and, as a true Chassid, he saw the good in everyone and loved all people deeply immediately.

He was seen by many as the Redeemer, Messiah. He never acknowledged that. He knew a false prophet must be executed. But, he also must have understood people’s desperation and didn’t want to undercut their (false) hopes. But he was severely criticized for not disavowing this. Possibly he himself was waiting to see if he would become the Redeemer. How so? As soon as we all repent, our Redeemer will appear – but not be born or miraculously appearing out of thin air. He must have been around already.

But, in any case, he was no doubt the leader of the generation, an amazing source of good, smart, wise, and holy advice.

Tell me who your students are and I tell you what teacher you were. The global giants who started under him were Rabbi Steinsaltz, Rav Jonathan Sacks, Reb Shlomo Carlebach, and Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi.

After his funeral, some started what looked like what Christians believe in: our savior is not dead and can return any moment openly as the Messiah. But, unlike Trinity flocks, they kept kosher and all other Commandments. These include their outstanding one of welcoming guests and Gentiles.

Holy Spirit

Almost a Prophet. Many Ultra-Orthodox and Sephardic Jews ascribe to the top rabbis that they have the Holy Spirit, that their knowledge surpasses what the rest of us can know. They don’t just know all of Judaism but have supreme advice in every area of consciousness. If you deny this to their followers, they see you as an Atheist. There are many miracle stories but little proof these wise rabbis thought themselves to have the Holy Spirit.


Then there are people really steeped in Kabbalah—unlike some popular, money-making charlatans. Almost no one knows them. They study holy books on a mystical level and mystical books every minute they don’t pray or sleep. Everyone who meets them understands that they are very holy and that they are extremely dedicated to goals beyond themselves.


It seems that many elderly rabbis know more because, besides being well-versed in our religion for many years, they have left the foolish beliefs most people still take for knowledge. Some people when they get older get wiser. It comes with age. But, especially in a fast-paced world, there is the risk of being out of touch and not even knowing you’re out of touch. Still, it never hurts to ask someone who could be wise.


Many Modern-Orthodox to Orthodox Jews hold that learned people are good advisors, the ones who studied Jewish Law enough to understand it on a superior level. Some of them see themselves capable of answering the public, sometimes en masse: in books, in speeches, in general rulings, or giving serial advice to thousands. After all, when you need medical advice, you ask a specialist too. Yet, one implication is that you don’t ask such a rabbi about things he doesn’t know about and won’t learn about.

Your Teacher

Many serious Jews explain that ideally, you should ask a rabbi who knows you. Jewish Law is subtle. Many details come into play in what to do. The Torah and Talmud and Codexis of Jewish Law give the Standards. But in each individual case, there are countless details and nuances to consider.


Rabbi Steinsaltz said once that it would be nice if the man or woman you asked knows Jewish Law, but the most important thing is that we ask Someone Else. Even smart and knowledgeable people are so biased that too easily we calculate that we need to do something comfortable or familiar instead of what Jewish Law really prescribes in our case. He added that also great rabbis ask other rabbis for rulings.


Last but not least, the best advice may come from someone who loves us, either a spouse, teacher, parent, child, student, or friend, just as the Torah says when humans are created: We need someone who can help us but may oppose us (Genesis 2:18). How are they supposed to be objective, wise, and honest sources for us to rely on? I think that what does the trick is love. Love is Souls connecting. When we would sin, our Souls become more obscured. Our lovers say: No, that doesn’t sound good. When we plan to do something virtuous, our Souls grow. Our lovers say: Good idea!

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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