Some people say that we are the people of the book, but the truth is, we are also the people of the kvetch.
In case you doubt this, check out our Torah portion this week. Jews have been refining the art of complaining since Egypt and in this week's parsha, they're back at it. They complain about the living conditions in the desert, and they recall with fondness the conditions in Egypt: "If only we had meat to eat! We remember the free fish we used to eat in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions and the garlic. Now our stomachs are shriveled. There is nothing at all! Nothing but this manna to look to." (Numbers 11:4-6).
Imagine, if you will, Moses' and God's frustration: "Nu? Even in freedom you can find something to complain about? Perhaps you'd prefer slavery?"
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888) suggests that the actual problem in this scenario is that there isn't one. The people have all the food (manna) and water they need to survive. However, manna provides nourishment but not choice. So, to keep life interesting, they start to make trouble where there was none. Hirsch imagines them saying to Moses: "It is not nourishment we lack. What we lack are the tasty, stimulating foods that excite the appetite. We miss the change of diet necessary for health. The complete monotony, the unvarying sameness of our food makes it unbearable." The safety and comfort is itself the challenge.
We American Jews can relate. We generally live lives of comfort and privilege, and we rarely worry about our day to day survival. We get kvetchy about little things because we are too comfortable, perhaps, and we need stimulation.
So, we need some inspiration to transcend our day-to-day lives, and remind us that we are part of something larger. This the effort and practice of religion – that we are bigger than our everyday problems, that we are so blessed and have so much to give, and that our lives have a bigger purpose beyond our own survival.