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Parashat Beha’alote’cha


Complaining has, unfortunately, been a part of our national character since the inception of our national journey.

We find in this weeks Torah portion that the people were discontented and unhappy, but the Torah does not attribute any specific reason or explanation to justify their unhappiness.

What was the source of their unhappiness and why doesn’t the Torah describe the source for their complaint?

An interesting and instructive explanation can be found based on the verse, “What I was anxious about came true, and that which I feared came to me.” In other words, that unwarranted worry about the future could be the very catalyst that brings it about, just like an employee who’s worried about losing his job, or a relationship that you fear might not work out.

Since they were under G-d’s protection throughout the time that they were in the desert, there was no rational reason for them to be anxious and so their feelings of insecurity caused them to rationalize and search for a justification.

Worrying can be constructive or destructive. If the object of your worry is something you can control, then worrying may be helpful. For example, a student who is worried about getting a good grade on an upcoming exam will be motivated by his worrying to study, however once the exam is over any future worry is futile.

Unless we clearly distinguish constructive from destructive worry, we may exhaust ourselves in futile worry and not have the time and energy to devote to things that we can do something about.

Some people are tormented by morbid expectations. Maimonides writes in his letter to the Sultan that it is just as likely for good things to happen as bad things so why allow yourself to be tormented by expectations of grief when it is just as easy to anticipate joy?

Of course, we know that unpleasant things do happen. If we can take steps to prevent such things, it would be foolish not to do so, as it is a wise person who saves his worries for when they can be beneficial.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Shaul