Desert fog
Desert fogiStock

Among the different types of personalities and personality disorders, there are “complainers” and “murmurers.” There are people who complain and murmur about everything. Wherever they are, whatever they’re doing, they always have the need to find something wrong. “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. While the bodies of the Egyptians 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! In this week’s Torah portion of “Behaalotcha” the murmurers take center stage. Rashi explains that their murmuring was only a pretext to disconnect themselves from Hashem. They purposely intended to provoke Him in order that He reject them so they could be free of His service.

They complained that they were exhausted from the three days they had journeyed through the wilderness without rest. In actuality, Hashem led them on the march for their own good, so that they enter the Promised Land as soon as they could but the murmurers turned the good into bad. It wasn’t only the “mixed multitude” among them. Rabbi Simeon son of Menasya states they were also the officers and leaders (see Rashi, BaMidbar 11:1.)

Then they complained about the daily menu, which ever since has become a very Jewish thing to do. I’m sure you are familiar with the type. They abound in restaurants. “This steak is too rare.” Or, “It’s too overcooked.” “I’m sorry, I can’t eat this. You’ll have to take it back.” They can drive waiters crazy. Just like they made Moshe crazy complaining about the manna, and then once again about the lack of water, and even about having to live in Eretz Yisrael.

Today we also have complainers.

“This in Israel is no good and that’s no good. Taxes are too high, apartments are too expensive, Nefesh B’Nefesh has impossible demands, the Israelis are rude, gays have taken over the country, and on and on and on.” Apparently, it is something genetic. They’re “complainers” and “murmurers” 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 that 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 and murmuring all the time.

The only other thing I can think of 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 by itself . Every Jew has faith 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 with Rashi is the best place of all.