Complaining – The Road That Ruins Relationships

In the past few weeks Parshios, we observe a tragic decline in Am Yisrael’s respect for both Hashem and Moshe Rabbeinu. The nation complains incessantly, first about the quality of the manna and then about the conditions in the desert.

It’s hard for Moshe Rabbeinu when the nation complains. He cries to Hashem, “Did I conceive this entire people or did I give birth to it that You say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom as a nurse carries a suckling, to the Land that You swore to its forefathers?’ (Bamidbar 11:12). What am I, their mother? From where do I have meat to sustain them all? I can’t do this alone,” he cries. “If this is how You deal with me, then kill me now” (ibid. 11:13-15).

Moshe had a tough role to fill. He was dealing with adults. Mitzrayim was the breeding place of the nation, Yetzias Mitzrayim symbolized the birth, and the years in the desert was its adulthood. The Jews gave Moshe no rest. When Moshe provided the Jews with the manna, he hoped that they would be happy. Imagine! They were getting food that required no preparation and tasted like whatever they fancied. What a blessing! Still, instead of seeing the food as kal, light, they saw it as kelokel, inedible.

Nothing Moshe offered appeased his “adult children.” Why was this so hard for Moshe Rabbeinu? Why couldn’t he handle the nation’s complaints? Because he was an ish tov. From when Moshe was born, his mother perceived the goodness in him. Vateire oso ki tov — “And she saw that he was good” (Shemos 2:2). He couldn’t handle the negativity.

The Power of Tov
“Come with us to Eretz Yisrael,” suggests Moshe to his in laws. We just left Mitzrayim, we received the Torah, and very soon we’ll arrive in the Holy Land. It will be so good for us! V’hayah hatov hahu asher yeitiv Hashem i’manu v’heitavnu lach — “With the goodness with which Hashem will benefit us, we will do good to you” (Bamidbar 10:32).

In his request to his in-laws, Yisro and his wife, Moshe repeated the word tov five times. It will be so good, he kept saying. He didn’t yet know that it wouldn’t be so good, that it would take many more years before the nation would finally enter — without him.

The words of Rav Chaim of Volozhin on this topic, will take your breath away. In his sefer Ruach Chaim he says that on the day a person says the word tov five times, his prayers will be accepted. And on the day a person says the word ra three times, his prayers will not ascend.

Why didn’t the nation merit entry to Eretz Yisrael soon after they received the Torah? Because they sullied their mouths with evil speech. Look at the damage the tongue can do.

Moshe’s Greatness: Positive Speech
A good person like Moshe knows only one thing: tov. Complaints don’t exist. Life is just good.

It’s true that it was hard for Am Yisrael. They wandered liked nomads from place to place, finding no peace. When they thought they would have a chance to settle down, the hovering cloud signaled their departure once again. “But we just got here!” they cried. “Can we know what You want from us?” Sometimes, in our heart of hearts, we may suspect that Hashem’s ways aren’t good for us. Life gets uncomfortable, circumstances are trying. “Why are You doing this to me?” we want to cry. But even when you have doubts, speak only good words. When you speak good words, when you think good thoughts the goodness will penetrate into your soul.

When you change your perspective, you change the reality. Even when the nation received food directly from Hashem, they weren’t appeased. How do you feel when your children complain about the supper you worked hard to prepare? “But I wanted chicken!” they cry when you make what you thought was their favorite supper, lasagna. Chicken? When do children ever want chicken?

When it comes to complaining, there is never a dearth of reasons.

Beha’aloscha es haneiros — “When you kindle the lamps” (Bamidbar 8:2) — light up your home with your positivity, with your smile. Be that candle even in the dark.

So whether you are a newly married couple or a veteran married couple, this weeks parsha teaches us a vital lesson. Complaining leads to destruction while gratitude opens the door to salvation.