Don’t stop complaining

Friday, 28 May, 2021 - 7:32 am

 This morning, after Shacharit, one of the people in shul said: “Oy, I love parashat Be’ha’alotcha so much; it’s such a Jewish parasha. So many stories about complaints. They complained so much in the desert. Ach, a richtige Yiddische parasha.”

That reminded me that one of the first things I encountered when I came to Switzerland was the reply you get when you ask a Jew, “How are you?” While in other places you receive the answer of “Baruch Hashem, good,” or “Everyone’s healthy,” and in Israel today they even say, “It’s all honey,” in Switzerland there is a good chance that if you ask, “How are you?” the response will be “man kann nicht beklagen – Can’t complain.” I was young then and I refused to accept such a response. “Why not complain? What’s the matter? One can’t even enjoy life nowadays? No – go ahead and complain like a good Jew.”

But seriously, what do you say: This Jewish tendency to complain, is it good or bad?

I don’t think it’s good. I think it’s great. Yes, really great. Because a person who is satisfied and feels good does not move forward. A person who is not satisfied will in the long run move forward and up.

Yes, I know, it’s not always like that. There are those who just complain and feel resentful without anything good coming from it, and that’s a pity. Still, the nature not to be satisfied from the current state of affairs is good; it has the potential of advancing us in life.

Among all the complaints in this parasha there is one very famous one that even led towards truly revolutionary results, and I mean, of course, the story of Pesach Sheni.

Superficially, it seems we have a group of good Jews who were tmei’im (ritually contaminated) and therefore unable to bring korban Pesach – the Pesach sacrifice. They were not happy with this, and instead of accepting the situation and making peace with it, they garnered their Jewish chutzpah, came to Moshe Rabbeinu’s tent and shouted: “Why should we be diminished by not offering Hashem’s offering?” The result is well-known: Moshe, in his great humility, asked Hashem, and Hashem created a new paragraph in the Torah that became the slogan of “nita kein farfellen – nothing is lost”, and if one only wants something enough, there is always the possibility of correcting matters and trying again.

Now, imagine what would have happened if they hadn’t complained. For sure, there were those who said, “Let it go, there’s no chance that Moshe will agree to listen to you. The law is the law and we are contaminated. It’s not so bad. We will bring the korban Pesach next year.” And yet, they still came and complained and shouted and requested, and it worked for them. Because that’s the way things go: when one’s request is sincere, it is heeded.

In short, my friends, don’t stop complaining.


Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski



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