Between Us: Let’s talk about kvetching

Between Us

In this week’s parasha, Beha’alotecha, the Israelites—after being in the wilderness for what seems like an eternity—are hungry, thirsty and uncertain about whether they will ever reach the Promised Land. They criticize Moses and Aaron’s leadership. They even wonder out loud if they were not better off as slaves in Egypt. And finally, we read, “The people took to complaining bitterly before God.”

Interestingly, God responds in different ways. When the Israelites made reasonable complaints about immediate needs, God responded with kindness. But when they are merely grumbling “like complainers,” God becomes incensed, lashing out in disappointment and anger.

The lesson is clear. When we face moments of difficulty in our own lives, we need to reach out to others and ask for their help and support. But if all we do is kvetch, we may find catharsis—perhaps even receive kind words and expressions of genuine sympathy—but we will accomplish nothing concrete to resolve our problems. It takes a special focus to address issues in the face of adversity. But focus doesn’t necessarily mean “going it alone.”  Reaching out to others takes—and gives—strength.