Birth of the Kvetcher – Parshat Beshalach
If you kvetch, the dictionary will tell you that you incessantly complain and if you are a kvetcher, you would be someone who constantly complains. It’s really an old Yiddish word, but due to its great sound and way it rolls off the tongue, popular culture added it to the English language. Rooted in Yiddish it must have a particular connection to the Jewish people.
In this week’s Parsha we see that it’s more than just have a connection, we personify the kvetch – it is almost like a national pastime. The Jewish people were taken out of Egypt with miracles; not just miracles but perhaps some of the greatest and most amazing wonders ever shown to mankind. It wasn’t like an amazing magic show where the trick wows the crowd; rather the impossible had become reality. The people needed to seek counseling after what they witnessed. Unbelievable (not in the loose meaning but in the literal translation) was an understatement. They knew the source for all this craziness was G-d. It was almost as if G-d had told them I’m going to pull out all the stops and then some, in order for you to get to Israel.
The rational person would observe these miracles and conclude that there is something higher than understanding taking place here, let’s just roll with the punches and see where it takes us. However the Jewish people didn’t behave in this logical way. After witnessing the plagues they cried out to G-d from the shores of the Red Sea and exclaimed that they would rather go back to Egypt than die in the water. They continued their rant by saying that the whole exodus was worthless and they failed to see the point. Upon which G-d splits the sea. Ok – as soon as they are safely on the other side, the complaints began again the water is bitter and we are thirsty; so the water becomes sweet. A few minutes later cries of hunger are heard; so the manna comes from heaven. Just a short while later they are once again complaining about their journey and why they left. Not to be outdone by their complaint that they were thirsty (again), Moshe hit the rock and out came water. Just writing this makes me want to say “genug shoin” or enough already, stop complaining! It got to the point where had the torah been written in Yiddish, Moshe would have said to G-d, “they (the people) are driving me crazy, all they do is KVETCH!
What are we supposed to do – kvetch about the fact that our gene pool is overstocked with the kvetch chromosomes? Are we supposed to run away from the facts? The answer is that life is going to have its challenges and there are times when we are going to need to kvetch. However we must make sure that when we kvetch, and get a load of this, we kvetch WITH A SMILE! We won’t be able to get rid of this fine character trait; however we can be more pleasant for all those who have to put up with us.
Rabbi Mendy Hecht