In the lead up to officiating at a wedding there are numerous lessons and meetings that I have with the engaged couple. One of those meetings is facilitate looking at the results of a professionally designed pre-marriage questionnaire. This helps the couple look at the strengths and growth areas in their relationship. One of the sections covered in this assessment is to analyse how the couple might handle or react to disappointments and frustrations.

This week’s Parsha, Behaalotcha, we have opportunity to analyse the reaction of a renowned Jewish figure. Non-other than the reaction of our most famous and respected Jewish leader, Moshe Rabbeinu, Moses.  Throughout his leadership Moshe received numerous issues and complaints from many different moaners. Moshe generally managed them rather well. However, in this week’s portion the Jewish people moan to Moshe, telling him that they are hungry for steak and biltong (well meat anyway)! They reminisce about the cucumbers and fish that they ate in Egypt (perhaps this was the first historically documented sushi!)

Here Moshe has an out of character type response. He reacts strongly to their complaint, suggesting that God rather kill him than subject him to these people!
What caused such a different response? Why did this particular experience elicit such a contrasting reaction? Why does the Torah highlight it?

There is a very pertinent explanation given by the Alshich Hakadosh (Rabbi Moshe Alshich).
Moshe was unfortunately accustomed to the Jewish people lacking trust in God. He had numerous encounters with them which demonstrated time and time again that their faith was far from perfect. Yet, none of those other instances caused Moshe to act in the way he did in our Parsha. Here to it wasn’t their lack of faith or trust that disappointed or frustrated Moshe. He was used to that behaviour. This was something entirely different. The Alshich explains that usually when a person asks for something and they don’t get it, it is then that they cry or complain. However, someone who cries or complains before even making the request demonstrates that they are complaining for the sake of complaining! The Jewish people in this case cried and complained before attempting to make their request!

It was to this type of behaviour that caused Moshe to be extremely disappointed with his people. He realised by the fact that the people were not even prepared to give it a try, to see or to ask, proved that they had simply arrived just to moan.

Unfortunately you see this type of behaviour in many settings. It could be in Shules, workplaces, relationships or various other surroundings. Without even trying to make an effort to resolve a problem, they throw their hands up in protest. They are quick to “fill in” the complaints card but slow to lift a hand to assist in finding a solution. It was this attitude that Moshe couldn’t tolerate!
I believe the lesson is vital and clear. It is easy to find fault, make complaints, or moan. Anyone can do that. To lift a hand, seek to find a solution, offer a suggestion… now that takes an honourable person!

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and a restful weekend!

Rabbi Daniel Rabin

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