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Meet the Complainers

By Tzvi Fishman
1/17/2011, 12:00 AM

We learn a very interesting thing from this week’s Torah portion. Among the different types of personalities, and personality disorders, there are “complainers.” There are people who complain about everything. Wherever they are, whatever they’re doing, they always have the need to complain. “This is no good, and that’s no good. This should be done that way, and that should be done this way.”  

We meet them right after our incredibly miraculous salvation from the armies of Egypt, as their bodies are still drowning in the sea, and our spontaneous song of joy is still echoing over the wilderness mountains, the people started complaining. Not all the people. The “complainers.” First they complained that there wasn’t any fresh water – as if He who split the sea five minutes ago couldn’t give them a little fresh water! Then they complained against Moshe and Aharon, finding fault with the greatest leaders in the world! Then they complained about the menu, which ever since has become a very Jewish thing to do. Then they complained again about the lack of water, accusing Moshe of trying to kill them! A little later on, they are going to start complaining about having to live in Eretz Yisrael.

Some people always find what to complain about.

I’m sure you are familiar with the type. There are no shortage of them amongst INN talkbackers. Surely you’ve noticed. Some talkbackers always complain. “This in Israel is no good, and that’s no good, this should be better, and that should be better, and on and on and on and on.” It may be that in the past I got down on them, but now I realize that it is something genetic. They’re complainers that’s all. It’s not their fault. They can’t help it. I suppose a doctor would call it an obsessive compulsion, and a psychiatrist might term it a neurotic disorder. It could be there are medicines that can help the problem, like the drugs that doctors prescribe for just about everything else. Maybe anti-depressants would work. After all, they don’t seem like very happy people, the way they’re complaining all the time.

The only other thing that might help them is to learn Emunah, which means faith. Rabbi Kook would always say that Emunah must be learned. True faith in G-d doesn’t grow on trees in Brooklyn. Every Jew has it deep down inside. But it must be developed. This requires learning. Not just any type of learning, but learning designed to bring a person to a living connection with G-d. Books like the “Kuzari” and the writings of Rabbi Kook are a good place to start. And a true reading of the Torah is the best place of all.

For example, the Spies were outstanding Torah scholars, but they were the biggest complainers of all. They believed in some things, but they didn’t believe in others. When it came to making aliyah, they didn’t believe in G-d, as the Torah says, “In this matter, you did not believe in the L-rd your G-d” (Devarim, 1:32).      

Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook taught:

“The Gemara talks about types of ‘Tzaddikim who don’t believe’ (Sotah 48B). The choose words of Torah and commandments, saying, ‘This matter is arranged properly by the Almighty. It’s very nice; it pleases me; it’s easy; I agree to abide. However, this matter is not so good.’ This approach to Torah leads to dangerous consequences and heresy. There is a startling saying of our Sages in the Gemara regarding someone who says, ‘This precept is pleasant, and this one isn’t pleasant; this matter is pleasing to me, and this other matter is not. Everyone who chooses between the mitzvot in the Torah, saying this one he agrees with, this one he doesn’t, loses the richness of Torah’ (Eruvin 64A).”

“In contrast to this comes the true approach of ‘Everything that the L-rd said, we will do and listen’ (Shemot, 24:7). We will do it whether it pleases us or not; whether we intellectually understand, or whether the matter is above our limited human logic and reasoning; whether we agree with the way things are, or whether have criticism. When the Torah is seen in its true light, there isn’t any criticism of the way Hashem does things. In place of criticism comes Divine attachment, harmony, and complete Emunah.”

Shavuah tov!