Jews love kvetching. And we love kvetching about the kvetchers. “Oy vey!” “I’m telling you . . . I’m totally overwhelmed from all his meshugasen!” “There she goes again! Oy, how much more can I handle?”

Well, if you think you have heard it all, check out the Torah portions of Behaalotecha, Shelach, Korach and Chukat. First, the Israelites bemoan their lengthy travels in the desert. Then there’s a sob story about the manna, followed by the spies coming back from Israel with a false report, which causes a national meltdown. Then Korach forms a rebellion against the leadership of Moshe and Aaron, and they complain about water, and they defy Moshe and try to enter Israel and are massacred. . . . It goes on and on. The attitude of “woe is me” reigns supreme.

Question: A group of slaves is redeemed from Egypt after generations of slavery. Instead of feeling gratitude, they verbally abuse their redeemer and bicker relentlessly. Why?

An answer: Here we come to the upside of kvetching. Kvetching is one step up from slavery. A slave cannot kvetch because of fear of the whip. More importantly, the slave mentality breeds apathy and a clogging of the emotional valves. It’s too painful, so it’s easier to disengage.

The first step out of slavery is to release suppressed feelings, performing emotional bypass surgery to unclog the indifference that has crept into the heart. The first step to freedom is to re-humanize ourselves.

Once the heart begins to feel, it will inevitably feel positivity and optimism. However, at first, the predominant feelings (in most people) will be those of pain, loss and confusion as one struggles to adjust to the new reality. This is considered progress.

It took 40 years of unclogging emotions for the Israelites to be ready to finally enter Israel with optimism, passion and a commitment to freedom.

Historically, Jews have mastered the art of kvetching, and have even turned it into an art form: some of the best and most innovative comedians are Jewish. Comedy is often a sophisticated version of kvetching (and sometimes a better earner). Why did we kvetch so much?

Because life for Jews has been so difficult and overwhelming, and often we couldn’t do anything concrete about our troubles. Yet we made sure to keep our hearts open, to not fall into the abyss of depression or allow our hearts to turn to stone. We kvetched to keep our hearts open and our emotions flowing. Kvetching has been our national safety net against emotional death.

Kvetching is the first step out of slavery and a way of ensuring that we don’t enter a soul-destroying slave mentality.

So if kvetching is so good…

After reading this, you might think that I consider it a mitzvah to kvetch! Not exactly. You see, kvetching is great when there is no option to take action, or immediately after being released from captivity.

But the Jew in the 21st century is not in these conditions. We are physically freer than we’ve been in a long time, and have been privileged with more opportunities for activism than our ancestors could even dream about. Today, kvetching is an escape from the myriads of opportunities for activism. It is time to bury it and its twin, pessimism, forever. They have served their purpose, and are outdated, dangerous and holding us back from moving forward.

Anti-Semitism? Do something about it. Moral decay? Talk about it. Family disintegration? Take the lead. Country in crisis? Add light and activism to the conversation. Radicalism? Be the voice of reason.

Kvetching is so old-fashioned. It’s time to forward march!