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It is an undeniable truth: when we are in a sour mood, even the noblest causes become meaningless. Even the greatest gifts are dreadful. Even the liveliest ideas are dead. Why? because our bitter state paralyzes us and our vision, and fills us instead with all sorts of negativities. Conversely, when we are joyous, grateful, and in a positive state, we see positivity in others too.

Rabbi Allouche

Have you ever met a bitter person? Have you ever been exposed to disgruntled people, who so often blame the world for all of their troubles?

Without a doubt, we all have. And one wonders: For Heaven’s sake, why can’t they be happy? Why can’t they assume full ownership of their lives?

Only three days after the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea, the Israelites began to complain. They were tired and thirsty, and they could not quench their thirst with the water that they had found in a place called Mara, “because they were bitter (- Exodus 15:23).” So Moses, following G-d’s commandment, throws a tree in the waters, they turn sweet, and the Jews drink and rejoice. But how dare they complain? Where was their faith in the G-d that had just redeemed them from slavery in Egypt?

The answer lies in the words of the verse: “They could not drink water.. because they were bitter.” What was bitter? Literally speaking, the waters were bitter. But Rabbi Menachem Mendel Morgenstern, the famed Kotzker Rebbe (1787–1859), offers a different take: the waters were undrinkable because “they” – the people, not the waters – “were bitter.” Indeed, a bitter person inhabits a bitter world. He can be presented with the world’s sweetest and most refreshing waters, but all he will taste is utter bitterness.

It is an undeniable truth: when we are in a sour mood, even the noblest causes become meaningless. Even the greatest gifts are dreadful. Even the liveliest ideas are dead. Why? because our bitter state paralyzes us and our vision, and fills us instead with all sorts of negativities. 

Conversely, when we are joyous, grateful, and in a positive state, we see positivity in others too. When we are in touch with our own shining souls, we sense the shining souls of others. When we are engaged in a genuine relationship with G-d, our appreciation of G-d within ourselves and within every person is far more palpable. To be sure, there are deficiencies in everyone; this is what makes them humans, not Divine. But when a person is only able to see stains in others, it is certainly a sign that this person needs his own cleansing.

French literature shares a delightful chronicle about a poor little bird that suffered terribly from the constant smell of a bad odor. The bird traveled the planet in search of a nice-smelling haven and pleasant-smelling friends but he failed. The poor bird could not find even one pleasant-smelling place and bird, in the entire world. Finally, the bird came to a stunning realization: the bad odor he had always smelled, emanated from… a rotten piece of an apple was stuck in his own nose! He removed it, and lived happily ever after.

So next time you’re feeling inexplicably distressed, bitter, negative and especially whiny, we may just need to look inward and ask ourselves if there is any “rotten piece of an apple” stuck within us too. We too must then muster the courage to remove it, and focus on the blessings in us and around us. 

A pleasant odor, sweetness, and true joy will then undoubtedly follow.

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