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An Honest Kvetch

Friday, 28 June, 2013 - 7:21 pm

News in iPhone.jpgWhen was the last time you complained about something in life? 

What does Judaism have to say about complaining? You will often think and even hear that we are prewired and it is the normal Jewish behavior to complain. Yet a quick glance through multiple stories in the Torah and one will quickly realize that very often the Jews are rebuked because they were overly complaining and cranky. Often even when the Jews had almost everything going for them in life and they would still find what to complain about.

Yet in this week's portion there is surprising story, where five ladies stand up and complain about having been denied a portion in the Land of Israel as the land was being divided. Moshe is stumped by their complaints and goes to G-d who then instructs Moshe to honor their complaint and grant them a double portion in the Land of Israel.

After all the times the Jews are rebuked for not being happy with what they have it seems kind of strange  that here, not only are they not rebuked, they are even rewarded and complimented?

Yet perhaps, the key to complaining is to know how to complain and also when to do it.

There were times that the Jews complained for almost anything even when things were near perfect for them, and there they were wrong. Here the complaint was of a very different nature, which is why not only is it not wrong, it is even complimented. The reason for this is because their complaint for an inheritance in the land in Israel did not stem out of a desire to just be like other people or to be able to own more real estate. Rather the daughters of Tzelafchad had a tremendous spiritual love and yearning for the Land of Israel and everything that it stood for,  and as a result they were determined to have a part in the spiritual path and opportunity that the Land of Israel represented.

In other words, they weren't complaining for the sake of complaining or even about being able to own a piece of land, rather their complaining was an expression of their love for Israel and their determination to have a part in doing what G-d wanted the Jews to accomplish.

Yet this alone might still not justify the difference that we see here and the compliments they receive for their complaints. Thus in fact there is one more piece to the story, and that is the manner and approach in the way they complained. They didn't complain in a rude or negative way, it wasn't in a manner that was seeking attention, rather they complained in a manner that was dignified, expressed their sincerity, and at the same time was respectful to the Jewish leadership at the time and to G-d. 

For all of the above factors the daughters of Tzelafchad are remembered not only for the great changes that they caused, but also for the reasons behind their complaints and the manner in which they complained.

Either way, next time we want to complain and achieve some good as a result, we have a lot to think about before we begin to Kvetch and complain. Firstly, what is the motive of our complaint, are we mixing in some personal negative feelings into the mix or is this truly a sincere complaint, even if we are sincere, is the manner in which we are complaining being done in a respectful manner or disrespectful manner, are we self promoting in the process or are we truly focused on the cause, and of course there are several other factors to take into account. Hopefully by the time we are done with our soul searching, our complaints will be constructive requests that will have a far greater chance and potential to succeed.

A few years ago a New York Times Bestseller was the book, Born to Kvetch, which would almost identify us by our ability and love of complaining. At the end of the day though, after all the great potential accomplishments of Kvetching and Complaining, I would like to end with a quote from the Lubavitcher Rebbe in his book the Hayom Yom, "A single act is better than a thousand Kvetches".

 Good Shabbos


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