By Rabbi Stewart Weiss
And Moshe, in frustration, cried out to Hashem: I cannot carry these people alone; it’s too much for me! And if this is the way it’s going to be, then please, just kill me!” (11:14,15)
Our Sedra is called “Parshat Ha’mito’n’im,” the chapter of the complainers. After the nation has reached a true “high” – we were freed from Egypt, we received the Torah, we built & then dedicated the magnificent Mishkan – it all seems to break down. We go into depression, we find fault with our leaders – and, by extension – with G-d, & we start to practice that time-honored Jewish tradition: Kvetching.
We complain about the conditions of the desert; the lack of water; the shortage of meat; the taste of the miraculous Mahn. Even Miriam & Ahron get into the act when they complain to Moshe about his neglecting his wife Tzipora. We find fault with everyone & everything.
In fact, we don’t even need a specific reason to complain: The chapter (11) begins by simply saying, “The people complained; it was evil in the ears of Hashem; He became angry & He burned the people.” Notice that this is BEFORE any specific grievances were lodged! There was just a general mood of discontent that gripped the nation.
Where did/does this dissatisfaction come from?
The answer, I suggest, can be found in two tiny, little words. When grousing about the mahn, the people say: “Our souls are parched, spoiled; aynkol!” These last two words – “ayn kol” – can mean, “we have nothing.” But it can also mean, “We don’t have everything!” And there is the key to it all.
If you believe that everything is coming to you, then the moment you don’t have something – be it a steak done exactly the way you like it, ice in your drink, the temperature a perfect 72(F) – 22(C) degrees (all pretty hard things to get in a desert!) – you forget about all the amazing blessings you DO have, & you focus only on what is missing. And then, invariably, you come up with a million & one faults in your own personal universe.
If this was a problem 2500 years ago, it is perhaps even more of a problem today. Our own souls are often “spoiled,” too. We want everything to be perfect, & when it doesn’t quite go that way, we go ballistic, or we fall into moaning, groaning or depression. We suddenly forget all the beautiful gifts which Hashem sends our way every day, every second.
One of a Jew’s greatest tests is whether he will see himself deprived, or Divinely blessed. One attitude leads to a life of bitterness, the other to a life of bracha.