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"The people took to seeking complaints; it was evil in the eyes of Hashem, and Hashem heard and His wrath flared, and a fire of Hashem burned against them, and it consumed at the edge of the camp" (Bemidbar 11:1). Rashi records the explanation of the Sages that the people complained that they had been traveling for three days without a break. Actually, Hashem was doing this for their benefit so that they could make it to the Land of Cana'an quickly before anything went wrong; as it subsequently did and they were delayed for forty years.

Very often, there are two ways of looking at the same occurrence. The person who has a positive personality and is optimistic will see everything in a good light whereas the fellow with a negative personality and is pessimistic will see only darkness. Either way of looking at things will have a definite effect on the observer; for better or for worse. One should try to be in control of this phenomenon. As a Torah leader used to advise his followers, "Think good and things will be good."

In Tuvecha Yabiu, Rabbi Zilberstein relates what happened when Rabbi Eliezer Silver of Cincinnati accompanied the American troops who freed the prisoners in the Concentration Camps at the end of World War II. The kind Rabbi wanted to boost the spirits of the broken men in the camp, so he organized prayer services for Friday Night. As people rushed to attend, one man stood stubbornly in his place.

"Why don't you join us too?" asked the Rabbi.

"After what I saw in these very camps," he replied bitterly, "I won't join religious people in prayer."

"What exactly did you see that is upsetting you so much?" asked Rabbi Silver.

"There was one man who somehow managed to have a book of Psalms in his possession. Naturally, in our situation, everyone wanted to say some Tehillim and pray for salvation for himself and his family and friends. Believe it our not, this man actually exploited the state of affairs and charged everyone a few slices of bread for each hour that he used the precious book. After seeing a man who calls himself religious behave in such a despicable manner, I don't want to associate with that group ever again."

Rabbi Silver's heart was filled with compassion for the man who had suffered so much and was continuing to agonize in pain. Warmly, he said to him, "It's really a shame that you judge an entire group based on the actions of one individual. I happen to be very impressed with the hundreds of inmates who actually gave part of their meager meals in order to be able to recite some meaningful prayers!"

A few moments later, with a big smile on his face, the fellow accompanied the Rabbi, arm in arm, to the evening ceremony.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel