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Posted on June 21, 2024 (5784) By Rabbi Label Lam | Series: | Level:

And when the people complained, it displeased HASHEM; and HASHEM heard it; and His anger was kindled; and the fire of HASHEM burnt among them, and consumed those who were in the outlying parts of the camp. (Bamidbar 11:1)

One thing is for certain. If you want to try to figure out what HASHEM wants from us and what HASHEM does not want from us, it is abundantly clear, even without a deep reading, that complaining is strongly not recommended. Frankly, nobody appreciates complaining. It betrays a lack of trust and a shortage of gratitude. Not only that, but it is not an effective tool to “win friends and influence people”. Maybe it works in the short run. “The squeaky wheel gets the grease!” However, for the long haul, it’s not an effective way to build or retain a relationship with the important people in our lives or with the Creator of the Universe either.

Rabbi Yonason Eibshitz ztl. pointed out a percentage point difference between two statements from the sages. One says that “If somebody has 100 then he wants 200!” It’s the nature of a person to want even more than what he has attained. This statement seems to say that he has reached 50% of his ambitions. Another phrase states that “a person does not leave this world having fulfilled half of his desires.” That means he reached, at best, 49.9%, and certainly he did not get to the 50-yard line of his hopes and dreams. How do we square this circle? How do we reconcile the subtle and percentage point differential between these two statements about human nature. It’s not a joke!

Rabbi Yonason Eibshitz ztl. offers a brilliant answer with profoundly personal implications. He says that the half that the person does not have is more-dear to him than the half that he does have. So, while quantitatively he may have reached 50%, attitudinally and qualitatively he is still shy of that halfway mark. When my daughters would ask me, if they can go buy more shoes in Marshalls, I would point out to them how many shoes they have in the shoe bag behind the door. I came to appreciate that the shoes that are in Marshalls are more-dear to them than the shoes they have already.

The Mishne in Pirke (4:1) asks, “Who is the wealthy person?” It answers, “The one who is (SOMAYACH B’CHLKO) happy with his portion.”

We understand that the person who celebrates what he has rather than complaining about what he doesn’t have or lacks is the truly wealthy person. That makes a lot of common sense.
I was thinking of a different answer recently. The word that’s used for one’s portion is CHELEK. The mystical books are telling us that Hashem breathed a breath of life into humanity and that divine investment is referred to as a “CHELEK ELOCHAI M’MAAL MAMASH” – An actual piece of G-dliness that resides within the person. One who knows how to exercise, stimulate, and rejoice with his G-dly soul, is the wealthy person. How is it done?

Rabbi E.E. Dessler says that worry and unhappiness begin when one has ambitions that are dependent upon other people. When someone has a spiritual goal that is only reliant upon his degree of desire and doing, then he has control over his destiny and can choose to excite and rejoice his G-dly CHELEK.

Rather than complaining and blaming and looking for fault, and feeling lack, frustration, and jealousy, it becomes possible to adjust our mindset and become truly optimistic. We always hear that an optimist is someone who sees the glass as half full and the pessimist sees the glass as half empty. The Torah has an entirely different approach, I do believe to optimism and pessimism. There is a story about two brothers, twins one was an optimist, and the other one was a pessimist. On their birthday, their father decided to put their attitudes and nature to test. For the pessimist, he bought a room filled with toys. When he went to see what his response was, he observed his son sitting there and fretting about all the toys. “What if it runs out of batteries!? What if it breaks?! What if somebody borrows it and doesn’t return it? Where am I gonna keep all of this stuff!?” Then he went to visit the optimist. For his birthday, he filled a room with a giant pile of horse manure. He found the boy was jumping and skipping with joy. He asked his son, “Why are you so happy?” The boy replied, “there has to be a pony in here someplace!”

The world is dense with the presence of HASHEM. There is no place which is absent of His presence. A Torah optimist does not see a glass as half full. It is brimming! If a pessimist sees a glass half full, he is missing much more than half.