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

Why did we fear Pharaoh would kill us when he pursued us after we left Egypt?

We (seemingly) read in the Torah (Exodus 14:5, weekly portion Beshalach, Seventh Day of Passover, I paraphrase) that Pharaoh and his servants had a change of heart, realizing they lost all their Hebrew slaves. So, they started chasing after the liberated Jews. Those see them coming from afar and get scared to be killed. This makes no sense.

Why would the Egyptians kill the slaves they want to return to them?

And then, why would the Jews be scared of being massacred?

You could say that they don’t fear literal death but that being a slave is like being dead.

Quote: Matchmaker: “You told me your father had died. Now I hear he’s in jail.” Client: “Well, can you call that being alive?”

But, that’s not how the Torah uses words. Death is death, not a metaphor. Even, when the Sages are shocked that a most rebellious child must get the death penalty (Deuteronomy 21:18-21), they suggest that this is only for learning, not for execution (pardon the pun). And then, one of them says that he actually sat on a grave of such a child. He doesn’t reveal if that child really was executed, but his remark helps to maintain the deterrence, saying to parents: love your child but set limits. or things will go wrong.

I also reject any notion of Jews just happening to be paranoid. Chronic mistrust comes from millennia of betrayal, not the other way around.

Also, Moses calms down the Jews not to fear, and then, G^d had to stop him calling out to Him. Makes no sense.


Yet, a little closer reading solves it all — if you’d know that the Torah uses two descriptions, normally equated, for very different groups. When it says in the Exodus story, “the Sons/Children of Israel,” it means the offspring of Jacob. When it says “the people,” it means the Mixed Multitude, slaves from all kinds of nations who hitched a ride with the escaping Jews.

The former, in Egypt, may have turned to idol worship, but they’re still long-term Jews. The latter are new converts-in-the-making, still weak in their trust in G^d and Jewish resilience. So, G^d takes the Jews the easier route because otherwise, the people(!) would get scared (Exodus 13:17).

Pharaoh and his court want the Children of Israel back, not the other escapees. They pursue, the Jews get very frightened, and call out in prayer. Then, it says “They said to Moses …” These are not the Jews. They are praying. The ones talking to Moses are the Mixed Multitudes. How do I know? The next verse begins: “And Moses said to the people …”

The Mixed Multitudes were scared to die. Maybe because they understood that Pharaoh would take the Jews back and leave them there to die, without Moses and G^d. Also, because Jewish servitude had ended half a year ago. When the Jews were recaptured as slaves, they would do the work of the Mixed Multitude, making the latter superfluous. Or, maybe they had seen Gentiles at war, and that always ended with lots of killing.

The Jews, on the other hand, were scared to be recaptured, and we prayed. Moses reassures the Mixed Multitudes to calm down. G^d reassures the Jews, to stop praying, and start moving.

The Torah is very precise and rich. But to really get it, we must slow-read.

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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