Straight Talk Parshat Be'halot'cha: Why Complain?
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Be'halot'cha(Numbers 8-12)

Why Complain?

In this week's parsha, the Jewish people complain about the manna, the bread that fell from heaven every day in the desert. It's quite extraordinary when you realize that the manna was miraculous food. It tasted however you'd want. If you desired a thick, juicy steak, that's the taste you got. Pizza with extra olives, coming right up. Chocolate chip ice cream, on its way.

And yet, the Jews in the desert complained that they preferred their slaves' rations in Egypt! It's unbelievable. If the manna tasted like anything they wanted, how could they complain about it?

We do the same type of thing all the time.

Complaining is almost always non-specific. We are looking for something to complain about. And we find it. If you want to complain, you will. We can stay at the best five-star hotel and complain that the concierge stopped smiling for a moment, or the tea was a touch too strong (or too weak), or the carpets were too soft. There is no such thing as perfection. So if we are looking, we will always find the flaw.

Even though the person complaining thinks precisely the opposite, complaining has nothing to do with circumstance and everything to do with attitude. If our attitude is bad enough, we will even complain about manna coming down from Heaven and tasting like anything we want.

But why do we complain? The problem is with expectations. The higher our expectations, the more upset we feel when life doesn't live up to them. The less we expect, the more likely we are to see the good in whatever comes our way. I would venture to say that expectations will never contribute to our happiness. They will only ever undermine it.

Expect perfection and life will always disappoint you. Expect very little and life will always surprise you.

Life, and all that is within it, is a blessing that God has bestowed upon us - unmerited and undeserved. Seeing it that way will fill us with gratitude and grant us immunity from complaining.

Published: May 30, 2009

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Visitor Comments: 4

(4) Anonymous, June 3, 2014 1:43 PM

This is excellent. Thank you so much for posting it!

(3) afraeem, May 25, 2013 9:11 AM

I liked it and it taught me a lesson also, we do expects such short explanations for an illumination in our lives.

(2) jacob, June 9, 2009 9:40 PM

i like lindsay'statement

(1) Lindsay, June 8, 2009 11:01 AM

A different take on expectations

I enjoyed this post but would like to suggest a different take on expectations. I agree that even the best experience can be tainted when we complain or look for the flaws. But instead of lowering our expectations, I would suggest we raise them! Let me explain. When you go out each day, expect wonderful things. Look for wonderful things EVERYWHERE! Rainy day? Look at the beautiful reflections of light in the puddles. Meeting new people? See them as G-d's creations and look for that spark of the divine in each one. Expect that every day will show you something of G-d's wonderful world. Expect the very best, and then look for it. It's not about expecting perfection or being pollyanan-ish. But it's also not about going out each day expecting nothing or expecting little. That is an awful attitude! You said "I would venture to say that expectations will never contribute to our happiness. They will only ever undermine it." I not only could not disagree more, I hear a profound sadness in your statement. I wish you healing for that. Start looking for the wonder, the perfection of the diamond in the rough in your everyday life. I guarantee it's there!

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