Commentary on Parashat Beshalach, Exodus 13:17 - 17:16
“This is boring!” “When are we going to get there?” “He has more toys than I do!” Children can get into the habit of complaining and whining again and again. They often seem not to notice their many gifts and blessings and simply complain as if they live a life of hardship and deprivation, despite how much they have.
In this week’s Torah portion, the children of Israel do likewise. After passing through the Red Sea and arriving safely in the wilderness, the first thing they do is whine. “We don’t have any food or water!” “We’re going to die in the desert!” Though they are granted sweet water to drink and manna falls down from the sky, they continue to complain throughout their time in the wilderness. Their life in Egypt was a period of terrible hardship and enslavement, yet once in the wilderness, they recall it as a time when they had everything they needed.
How can parents help their children feel gratitude for the blessings in their lives, rather than focusing on what they don’t have or what is difficult? Perhaps parents can do a favor for their children by not responding to each complaint. Parents can also shift their own mindset to a sense of gratitude for all the good in their lives when there is an impulse to complain. Doing something as prosaic as keeping a gratitude journal or list makes us more attuned to what we do have than to what may be missing or in short supply. Even if hardship or illness has visited us or those we love, we can still be grateful for the many blessings we have. Stressing the positive aspects of our lives for our children, rather than reinforcing perceived negatives, can be a powerful role model.
TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the importance of focusing on their many blessings in life and not on what may be missing.
CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:
· For what things in your life are you grateful?
· What do you wish was different in your life and why?
· Does complaining get results or just release tension?
Do you admire people in ill health or in difficult situations who rarely complain?
From “Values and Ethics: Torah Topics for Today,” available from Behrman House Publishers.
Pronunced: TORE-uh, Origin: Hebrew, the Five Books of Moses.