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Parshot Festivals

Ain’t it a joy to complain?

  • RabbiAriShishler
Sol visits his old friend, Abe, who has recently acquired a new dog.
by Rabbi Ari Shishler, Chabad of Strathavon | Feb 14, 2019

“Nu, vot kind of dog is he?” asks Sol.

“He’s a Jewish dog, and his name is Irving,” Abe replies.

“Votch dis,” Abe continues, as he cocks his head towards the dog. “Irving, fetch!”

Irving ambles over to the door, slowly turns around, and starts to speak: “Why are you talking to me like that? You constantly order me around, “Irving, sit! Irving, stay! Irving, out!” What am I, gehakte herring? You expect me to sleep on the floor, with my arthritis... You feed me farkakta food full of salt and fat, it tastes like dreck! You should eat it someday! You never even take me for a decent walk! It’s out of the house, a few steps, and right back. Maybe if I could stretch out a little, my sciatica wouldn’t kill me so much!”

Sol is gobsmacked, “Abe, your dog is amazing!”

“I don’t know,” Abe replies, “I think this dog has a hearing problem. I said ‘fetch’, and he thought I said ‘kvetch’.”

Ever since our forty-year tour through the Sinai desert, we Jews have complained aplenty.

Our family is either too meddling or totally unsupportive; our community is too small and nosey, yet too big for us to make a difference; our leaders are flawed and the weather’s never right; our salaries are insufficient, our budget overwhelming; government is useless, and the country’s going down the tubes.

It’s so easy to fall into the whinging habit, especially when we feel our complaints are justified.

How do you break the kvetch syndrome?

Judaism offers a sixty-day programme of attitude-adjustment – and we’re in the middle of it now. We call it the month of Adar, and this year, we get double the value (it’s a leap year, when we have two Adars).

The Talmud says “Mishenichnas Adar marbim besimcha”, (when Adar enters, we increase in joy). Adar centres on Purim, which commemorates a time when Jews had plenty to complain about. We were a long way from home, trapped in a foreign land, where the Prime Minister (Haman) had carte blanche to launch an anti-Semitic genocide.

Strangely, those Jews didn’t complain; they became proactive.

First, the community pulled together. Then, they re-committed to their Judaism, and prayed for a miracle. Thanks to their proactive approach, the inevitable tragedy became instead a cause for celebration.

Each Adar, we are offered the same opportunity. We’ll always find reasons to complain, but Adar is about joy. Joy comes from active participation, rather than armchair grumbling. Joy strengthens when we unite with our community. Joy means that circumstances don’t paralyze you, but that you can generate your own happiness, under any circumstances. And the secret of joy is to recognise that G-d is in charge, and can fix it all in a heartbeat.

We’ve got two months of potential simcha – joy without limitations. We should grab the opportunity.

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