In this week’s Parsha, we read: “We remember the fish that we ate in Egypt free of charge, the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic” (Bamidbar 11:5). The people were ostensibly crying over the food they missed in the Wilderness. Rashi quotes the Talmud in Yoma 90. that they were not really crying that their diet was insufficient, but instead, they were frustrated by the family laws that regulated permissible relationships.
Rabbi Yissachar Frand quotes Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky zt”l who asks how the Sages know this? The simple reading of the pasuk is that they were crying over food deprivation?
He answers that there is a concept in Torah interpretation called “פרדס.” PaRDeS is an acronym which represents the Torah being understood on several different levels—the level of Pshat (simple interpretation), Remez (hidden allusion), Drash (homiletic exposition), and Sod (mystical interpretation). So too, he says, human beings need to be understood on different levels. When a person says something, it needs to be analyzed at the level of Pshat, the level of Remez, the level of Drush, and the level of Sod. People often don’t understand their own words on the subconscious level.
Sometimes something much deeper is really going on than the face value of someone’s words. People don’t cry about fish and cucumbers—especially when they have manna falling from Heaven daily, tasting whatever the person’s pallet desired. Our Sages point out that something much deeper than onions motivated them. He refers to this as “Klayot v’Lev” (literally kidneys and heart), a Rabbinic idiom for what we call the subconscious. In other words, they themselves were unaware of what was really bothering them.
This phenomenon often occurs with interpersonal relations—with our children, spouses, employees and employers. Sometimes a person is mad about something, and we ask, “Why are you mad about this? It seems such a trivial issue.” Generally, the answer is that something else is going on. It is not the onions. It is something deeper.
Sometimes we get upset about something. We need to ask ourselves, “Why am I so upset?” Sometimes we don’t even realize it. “Why should this bother me so much? It is such a minor issue!” We need to ask ourselves: “What is really bothering me? What is really motivating us?”
Rabbi Shlomo Gabay