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What's the Point of Complaining to G‑d?

What's the Point of Complaining to G‑d?

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Question:

When Moses saw things backfired in Egypt, he complained to G‑d, "Why have you done bad to these people? From the time You sent me, things have gotten worse instead of better!"

Didn't G‑d know that things had gotten worse? Isn't G‑d aware of what's going on in His world? Why does He need Moses to tell him?

Response:

G‑d sees all and knows all. But sometimes you need a report from down on the ground.

Here's an example: As a music composition major at the University of British Columbia (had a great faculty at the time), I set myself the task of writing a string quintet. With lots of help from my mentor, I toiled for months to come up with an original piece of complex counterpoint and clean form. Eventually, it won first place in its category in a provincial festival of the arts.

I recall vividly the morning that we first placed the sheet music in front of the quintet. This was in the days before instrument synthesizers, so I had heard nothing until now except whatever could be duplicated on the piano, plus the constructions of my own mind. As you can imagine, it was hard to keep my seat from shaking across the floor as my music came alive before me.

Then the double-bass player stopped the rehearsal. He took out his pencil and started changing some of the notes. I almost leaped at his neck, but my mentor grabbed my arm. I could see he was reading my very loud thoughts: "A chutzpah! The counterpoint is perfect! It's all been checked by my professors. The form is exquisite—I spent months on this! He thinks he knows the intent of the composer better than the composer himself!"

"They do that," he said. "And they're usually right. It's different when you're playing from the inside."

G‑d has two views of reality. One is the grand view from above. From there, the ugliness blends with its context to create even greater beauty. All is exquisite and ideal, a perfect whole.

Then He has the view from within. Within time, within space, within the confines of a flesh body that cringes at pain and is outraged at suffering; a view for which the now is more real than a thousand years of the future. The view not of the Composer, but of those who must play the music. And sometimes, what looks magnificent from above, is the pits from within.

Both views are true. Both views are G‑d.

In the Torah, the view from above is presented in G‑d's voice. G‑d's view from within is presented in the voice of Moses. The two come together to compose the ultimate truth of Torah.

Moses was simply practicing a common Jewish habit: Kvetching to G‑d. We call it prayer. It's the pencil granted us by the Composer. We preface our prayer with the verse, "G‑d, open my lips, that my mouth may speak Your praise." We ask, in other words, that our prayers should be the words of G‑d from within, speaking to G‑d as He stands above.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at Chabad.org, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
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Rivka February 20, 2011

WOW!!! When I daven, kvetch, beseech now I will know that it is not me and therefore I should not feel guilty about it. This is G-d. The G-dliness invested within me communicating with the essence of G-d. Wow. Who said talking to yourself is a sign of insanity? This is exactly what we are doing when we pray. This has given me a great new perspective, one I hope I will remember every time I pray. Thank you, I am also really enjoying your whole series on prayer.

To echo some others, could you quote the source in Chasidic literature for this, I would love to learn it inside. Reply

marilyn pinon hills, ca April 19, 2010

God's goodness Amazing that the omnipotent God allows me to complain, whine or kvetch. I feel better because I was going to do it anyway. Nice to know that he's ok with it. Reply

Natasha London April 18, 2010

I find this a particularly beautiful answer. I'll be keeping this one in mind. Thank you for your insights! Reply

Anonymous canada via chabadvsl.com January 28, 2010

very nice article. too often we forget. Reply

Anonymous wc January 27, 2010

pretty cool stuff I am referring to the intro line to the Shemoneh Esrei : prayer from my lips ( using Your/G-dly words ) to Your ears Above.

Nice compositions all way round Reply

Ann in Texas January 26, 2010

Music Rabbi, I did not know you were a composer.

How wonderful! Reply

Lenore Roberts January 26, 2010

Bingo! Your fine essay says so simply that we have free will, that suffering is unacceptable, that, specifically we must make the effort to repair our world at each and every level. We must know it's okay to complain and then, we must believe that we can often, if not always, act to improve a situation. Don't mean to imply that everything can be easily "fixed" - but the concept that we have the right to demand better of the world and of ourselves is, I believe, the meaning of free will, and, thus, the commandment of tikkun olam. This understanding also makes many others in the world very angry at us.... Reply

Anonymous Crofton, MD January 26, 2010

Complaining to God Thanks for the interesting perspective! Reply

Anonymous January 26, 2010

Great Analogy Is there any way I could hear the composition? In any case, I have been looking for the answer to that question for a while now and this was beautifully put together. Reply

Anonymous Roanoke, VA January 26, 2010

Not sure I buy that... If this were the case, then wouldn't G-d temper his decisions on the "reports" of individuals?

It seems much more likely to me that G-d gives us a chance to air our grievances so that we are better able to trust in the divine plan. We know that we've said our peace and that it's been considered. It doesn't change anything for G-d, because our thoughts have been known since the beginning of time. But it DOES change something in us...it gives us the ability to clear our heads and hearts and commit fully.

My guess is that the few biblical examples of bargaining with G-d (e.g., Lot re: Sodom & Gomorrah), are in keeping with his plan all along, but a way of letting us know that he DOES know best but will pick a second best plan in consideration of truly strong sincere desires of the human heart. It's G-d's way of letting us know we are each individually important to him.

Am I way off? Anybody else have any thoughts? Reply

Marilyn pinon hills, ca January 26, 2010

Complaining to God In the face of awful persecution, I hit the computer this morning feeling like it was useless to complain to G-d but asking Him to reveal himself to me. Thank you because he did thru your words and I am renewed and will continue to complain to Him. Beautiful essay. Loved it. Very inspiring. Reply

Anonymous North hollywood, Ca January 26, 2010

Let's start Kevetching! this has inspired me to do more hisbodedus-thanks :) Reply

Anonymous Los Angeles, CA January 26, 2010

Very intriguing Would love to see source notes for this. Thank you. Reply

Gary Besner N/A, N/A January 16, 2010

Checkmate - your move. Great article - it really hit home for me.

It's tough learning the rules of the game on my own - but I think I'm doing pretty well. Reply

Joanna Zorya January 15, 2010

Wow - it's so true. Fantastic commentary - and it could not be more relevant and pertinent to where my life has been over the last few days... thank you very, very much. Reply

Moshe Kimmelman Chicago January 14, 2010

Beautiful Explanation Is there any source for this idea in Chassidism? I would like to study this from the original texts. Reply

Shirah Bracha January 13, 2010

Kevetching brings G-d's Response all the time! I am also reminded of the Prophet Habakkuk who clibed up on his post and REALLY kevetching to God about the restoration of Israel. He wanted answers! Habakkuk was given the word of the L-d, but he kept asking "How long L-d?" Sounds like us on the ground looking up at G-d doesn't it?
The neat thing about this is G-d already knew the prophet's complaint, but He wanted him to WRITE the vision down so everybody could know when it happened. G-D told Habakkuk to live by faith and confidence to see it happen! HAB 2:2-3; HAB 3:17 Reply

Raj K Dheri Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia January 12, 2010

amen at last i am able to shed the robes of a labouring prayer and speak to G-d from within the depths of my soul. instead of depending on prayerful notions of what prayer should be like i now long to communicate. a million thanks rabbi. Shalom. Reply

The Shadow Boxer miami, fl January 12, 2010

Moses and his Complaning Sometimes God uses the very things that we are weak at, to show our inability, but His Immutability as He cares for His children. When a parent gives a child a chore to complete, and the child finds this chore to bearing and burdensome. This is the samething Moses did, and the samething we do when we dont want to conform Reply

Rabbi Ariel Abel Radlett, Herts UK January 12, 2010

Your answer Brilliant answer. (Would say "Both views are godly, rather than G-d, but there we go.) Reply

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