Sharona Margolin Halickman

Is the Glass Half Empty or Half Full?

In Parshat Behaalotcha, Bamidbar 11:1-3 we read about the nation acting as “mitonenim” complainers: “The people were “k’mitonenim” like complainers; it was evil in the ears of God. God heard and His anger flared and the fire of God burned among them and consumed some of the outcasts of the camp. The people cried out to Moshe and Moshe prayed to God and the fire subsided. He called the name of the place Taverah, for it was there that burned among them the fire of God.”

Since their complaints are not specifically mentioned in the text, our commentators conjecture what their complaints were about.

According to Ramban, the word “mitonen” is from the same root as “Ben Oni” (Binyamin’s name given to him by Rachel right before she passed away, meaning “the son of my sorrow”). As they got further away from Mount Sinai, which was near an inhabitable settlement and entered “the great and dreadful wilderness” in their first journey they became upset and said: “What shall we do? How shall we live in this wilderness? What shall we eat and what shall we drink? How shall we endure the trouble and the suffering and when shall we come out of here?”

Ramban explains that they spoke in the bitterness of their soul as do people who suffer pain and this was evil in the sight of God as they should have followed Him “with gladness and goodness of heart when everything was abundant” however they behaved like people acting under duress and compulsion, murmuring and complaining about their condition.

In every situation we can find positives and negatives. Each of us can decide if we want to look at the glass as half empty or half full.

Instead of letting God take care of them, in place of appreciating the fact that they just received the Torah, rather than being grateful for the fact that the Ark of the Covenant was traveling in front of them and the Cloud of God was above them, they chose to worry and complain.

When encountering a difficult situation, one needs to take the time to assess the situation and weigh the positives and negatives. Often, one will find that the good outweighs the bad.

About the Author
Sharona holds a BA in Judaic Studies from Stern College and an MS in Jewish Education from Azrieli Graduate School, Yeshiva University. Sharona was the first Congregational Intern and Madricha Ruchanit at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY. After making aliya in 2004, Sharona founded Torat Reva Yerushalayim, a non profit organization based in Jerusalem which provides Torah study groups for students of all ages and backgrounds.
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