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The Book of Job

 

I’ve been missing the bible study class at my synagogue for the past two months, because it’s on one of my internship days. When I come home from work, I can barely move, let alone get back in the car after dinner and make sense of the Book of Job. My brain is like a block of ice by the end of the day, and it takes hours and hours for any melting to take place in order to allow room for new information to come in.

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“You want me to go out, again?”

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Cricket refuses to go.

I like bible study at my synagogue. It’s nothing like the way we read the books of the bible in my schools growing up. In elementary school (liberal) we read each book like a story, straight through, looking for plot twists and heroes and villains. In Junior high and high school (orthodox) we read everything line by line, or word by word, with three sets of commentators arguing about the deeper meaning of each spelling oddity.

My current rabbi likes to take a literary/historical approach, giving us a sense of when each book was written, and what lessons the stories were meant to convey, and who decided to include them in the canon.

I was in class for a few of the early chapters of the book of Job, where Job is pissed off at God, and wishing for an early death, and his “friends” are self-righteously correcting his thinking and telling him to trust in God and he’ll be fine.

Bullshit. That’s what I was thinking as I sat there reading those annoying passages about how a good person would think and act and speak, accepting fate and God’s judgement and blah blah blah. I came very close to screaming at my poor rabbi for making us read this crap. Can’t they see that this man is in pain?! What kind of friends would have such a lack of compassion?!

            Okay, so I actually said this out loud. But my synagogue is full of social workers and teachers and social activists, so I was not alone in my plaint.

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“We’re with you, Mommy!”

The rabbi rolled his eyes at me (he does this a lot) and said, they’re not really his friends. It’s a literary device (with a look at me, like I should have recognized this). Job gets to criticize God and cry out and get his words published for the world to see, as long as these straw men can put up their empty counter arguments too. Why else would the rabbis have chosen to include the Book of Job, about a non-Jewish man, in the Jewish Canon, if not to offer room for anger at God? They know their people. The Jews need to complain and rail at God, and this was a way for the rabbis to give them permission.

            You have no idea how disappointing this was for me. All this time I thought that my railing against God and orthodoxy and, you know, the weather, was unique to me and a sign of my special insight and intelligence and bravery. But, no. Everyone feels this way, or at least a lot of us, and the rabbis wanted to give us a safe container to express those feelings, without getting excommunicated.

I know that the trend is to do gratitude journals and focus on the positive and say all of the “right” things. But, in my experience, we all have things to complain about and if we can get those complaints out, and find validation with our friends, we’ll have a chance to survive the stress. Whenever people complain to me about something, and then apologize for complaining, I automatically tell them there’s no reason to apologize. Complaining is one of our best tools for maintaining good mental health. Make two complaints and call me in the morning. If we just pretend that everything is okay, and swallow the pain, and spout self-righteous messages on how to be perfect, our heads will explode. Poof! Poof! Poof! Brains exploding all around me.

It’s possible that I learned this lesson about complaining from Cricket, who never lets a complaint go unbarked. Or from Butterfly, who sits down when I try to pull her leash and just waits for me to get the message, I know what I need, Mommy, now f*** off. Though I don’t think Butterfly would ever use that kind of language. I would. But she’s a much better person than I am.

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Cricket is contemplating all of her complaints, and trying to choose the one to bark next.

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Butterfly demonstrating her sit-in techniques.

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And now they are exhausted.

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About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

81 responses »

  1. hairytoegardener

    This is one of your best posts, ever. You wrote, “Whenever people complain to me about something, and then apologize for complaining, I automatically tell them there’s no reason to apologize. Complaining is one of our best tools for maintaining good mental health. Make two complaints and call me in the morning.” —I laughed at the last sentence, but the whole paragraph is true.

    The only thing is that I think we also need to give weight to what is positive in our life, and I say that because it’s easy to fall into a hole of negativity. Yes, I have a plumbing leak under the house (boo-hiss!) and I’m not happy about it, but hey, my garden is pretty righteous right now, and I am the Queen Weed Slayer of the South. So there! ~Grin.~

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  2. Great post, Rachel. Personally, I think there has to be a balance. Sometimes, trying to see the good in the crappy situation can help. And sometimes, it’s just not possible.

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  3. Thanks Rachel for this great post. I love the Book of Job–with its blessings and curses and more blessings. I, too, think some complaining can be helpful–a lesson I, too, learned from my dog. She never apologizes for complaining when I don’t do what she wants.

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  4. Everybody complains. This is life but at the same time if you realize there is much to be thankful for….well, that outweighs all the complaints. At least that is what I think…Right now we are all complaining about the weather here in NY – it just cant make up its mind!

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  5. Bugger off… maybe that’s more like what Butterfly might say

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  6. The book of Job is one of my favorites because it refutes that dreadful phrase “everything happens for a reason” which always seems to suggest you had it coming. So Job’s friends essentially give him the same trite suggestions. Of course Job is p.o.ed. Who wouldn’t be? I do like the end of the story, though! Even if that doesn’t always happen. I like happy endings.

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  7. Cricket may be a great complainer but Butterfly is exhaustion personified (caninified??) in that last pic! She looks so totally unconscious, I reckon she could sell relaxation tips to sloths

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  8. Oh, Rachel! You should copyright this one: “Make two complaints and call me in the morning.” Priceless!!!

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  9. I loved this post, cannot remember the last time I heard of complaining as a health tonic. It makes sense though. Balance is the key.

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  10. Complaining can be therapeutic. I thought you might like to know it’s often called whingeing in Australia—rhymes with bingeing. 🙂

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  11. I really enjoyed reading this post. It comes at a time when I am not very pleased with God and yet have been conditioned to accept my lot in life and not complain about it, and blah blah, blah. On another note, your little dogs are beautiful.

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  12. Superb, Rachel. Even Jesus, on the cross, complained.

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  13. Love this post, thanks for the laughs. CD

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  14. Thank you for this! I, too, am a great believer in the benefits of complaining. One thing I like to complain about is the explaining away of characters acting badly as a “literary device.” That doesn’t get them a pass! Well, there is a whole discussion to be had there but I am not up to it. I always thought it was kind of unfair that all of Job’s kids got killed just to make him suffer. Another literary device? I love your dogs.

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    • Thank you! I’m not a fan of literary devices either. Even in fiction, I want characters to act the way they do because that is who is they are, just like in real life. Cricket is giving me side eye right now, because that’s just who she is.

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  15. Great post Rachael. Well written and exposing truths about things we all (at least those that admit to it) have these arguments with God. We so love the book of Job!!!! A real story that we can relate too.

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    • I’m so glad! The thing is, I’m pretty sure God can take a few arguments and complaints from us.

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      • Amen to this. He and me have had a few whoppers and the greatest thing He is always right. What a good Father He is. We absolutely love the 38 chapter when He speaks. We can just hear Him and His voice echoing in our heart!!!!! Isn’t it great when we recognize we are human and feel pain and hurt and confusion but yet knowing when we know Him that He’s got it all under control.

  16. “Complaining is one of our best tools for maintaining good mental health. Make two complaints and call me in the morning. If we just pretend that everything is okay, and swallow the pain, and spout self-righteous messages on how to be perfect, our heads will explode. Poof! Poof! Poof! Brains exploding all around me.” Blah, Blah, two complaints, call me in the morning! LOVE your cutie cuddlers and your writing.

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    • Thank you so much! Cricket is preventing her brain from exploding right now, standing at the front door and barking at I-don’t-know-what. It seems to work for her.

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      • Sweet companions – i will allow the rescue dog to choose me…but im hoping for another fluff of white fur…the size of Cricket. She looks a lot like my little Moses…for short Mosey with a limp.

  17. I enjoyed reading this ( a few times ). Once again, a fascinating insight into something, about which , I know very little and interlaced with the right amount of humour about questions which are answered by someone ” who knows “, but not answered to your complete satisfaction because you are asked to accept the answer given as fact, no matter how much it doesn’t fit with your own perceptions. You are lucky to have your beautiful dogs to keep you right ! 🙂

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  18. The perfect read for my morning in the mud and complaining (cursing) at sick animals, goats who refuse to get on the milking stand and no sun–for weeks and weeks. Doesn’t God realize our goats get infections with so much rain? But then I think in some ways we do this to ourselves. Should I really have gotten goats from Africa if I live in the cold northeast?

    Great post. I so look forward to every one of your posts. And when I get too busy to read and return finally I’m so glad I did. 🙂

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  19. You are not alone! When it comes to complaining I need to find balance so I don’t end up a grumpy old lady. Too much complaining can get out of hand and i think it can turn people off from wanting to spend time with me. But there are times when it is totally necessary!
    I need to study Job. It’s been awhile and there is so much there that i don’t understand. One of my all time favorites is –
    Job 19
    25 I know that my redeemer[c] lives,
    and that in the end he will stand on the earth.[d]
    26 And after my skin has been destroyed,
    yet[e] in[f] my flesh I will see God;
    27 I myself will see him
    with my own eyes—I, and not another.
    How my heart yearns within me!
    Maybe you could suggest a weekend bible study be started because there are a lot of people that don’t have the energy after working all day to study at night? I’m retired and can take a class during the day now. When i was working there was no energy left at night – i’m with you there too.

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  20. I love this post. Your timing couldn’t have been any better. I always knew there were other people out there that felt the way I do, but I am definitely not as eloquent at getting the point across. Thank you!

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  21. Excellent post and those two munchkins are so adorable.

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  22. I’m glad someone else had that moment of clarity that no, we’re not alone in being occasionally mad at God. And that it’s okay, I think personally He expects it. He didn’t make us perfect after all or what would the point of coming here to experience trials be? But to be truthful, I too thought I was the only one who railed at God for my problems. The dogs have it licked. Their attitudes show us a more perfect way to live IMHO. Maybe that’s why we are blessed to have them in our lives. To teach us?

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  23. https://saymber.com/2015/10/21/21-oct-2015-yelling-at-god/ – I agree with you Rachel. The God of my understanding is pretty used to me going on a rant or “tear-ade” on occasion. It is healthy to vent and I find it better to vent to God than at some other poor living soul that might not be so understanding lol. I enjoy reading about your adventures in faith and life. I hope you are taking good care of you in your studies! Much love to you.

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  24. After reading these posts you can see you are not alone. I always look at it this way, we are human, God designed us and knows our imperfections and our perfections. Grumbling and camplaining is an imperfection but don’t you think He wants us to go to Him? By going to Him we find strength, courage and a deeper faith. He will answer like He answered Job. Bad things happen to good people, it has been like that since the beginning. It doesn’t mean God doesn’t care. For me, it means He is with us helping us through the difficult situations. If we complain He listens, encourages and guides us through. We are all imperfect – but God loves us even in our complaints. And yes we can learn a lot from our dogs…they are the perfect companions for us don’t you think? :). Good post.

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  25. I agree! Of course non-stop complaining isn’t a good thing, but neither is never complaining. Pretending that everything is just fine all the time is too much work, and I don’t think good every comes from denying the truth. Sometimes, as you say, we just need to vent and to have someone validate our feelings.

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  26. Dog’s won’t do the tribulations of Job, they are far too much of the moment. My dog Dylan used to do what your wee guys excel at; the sit down protest. If he recognised running routes that he didn’t like the brakes were applied on many occasions.

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  27. Loved your post. Dogs do teach us sooo much if only people took the time to listen. I rant too at God in my private home space and I do not think it offends Him at all. But I do believe He ultimately expects me to trust Him.

    Sent from my Bell Samsung device over Canada’s largest network.

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  28. Great post. I think that God expects us to be honest with Him. So, if we are upset or angry, then we might as well tell him about it. After all, he already knows and, if we try to hide it, he knows that too.

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  29. Love this post, thank you so much, made me chuckle and very insightful.

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  30. We all so heartily agree! You have to express your anger and hurt, otherwise things start to fester! Those who love you and listen, help you to get through everything. Pip and the boys

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  31. Lovely posts ! And such cute dogs😍

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  32. Wonderful insights and photos! I especially love “Cricket refuses to go.” So agree with your insight that complaining is necessary sometimes. I used to see a career counselor once a year for a “tune-up” (after she helped me transition into freelance writing) and spend the first half of our session ranting on. Then I’d apologize. “Everyone does it,” she’d explain “Get it out there and then we can get to the solutions …” Thanks again.

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  33. A good friend of mine, who lives in another state, recently went through debilitating cancer treatments. Occasionally she would write me ranting emails about how miserable she was and how awful she felt, and then she would apologize for complaining. I told her I was actually GRATEFUL that I could be a receptacle for her complaints and assured her I always would be, so she should feel free to complain as much as she wanted. It was the least I could do to try to alleviate some of her suffering long-distance.

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  34. Yes, I never accept my friends’ apology for complaining. I say it is VENTING . . . and that is fine. Like you said, it allows us to deal with/handle the stress. And when someone says, “There, there . . ” and gives a sympathetic ear it helps. I always invite friends to vent at me . . . especially if it is a work/customer/client situation. I would rather them get it out on me than explode at work / at a customer/client. I’ll be their sounding board!

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  35. Thank you for liking some of my blog posts. I’ve looked at this one a couple of times though I still haven’t read it in it’s entirety. I do love your dog pictures and their comments in all your posts. I can relate! I also like your comments about Job and complaining. Shudder to think you should disagree with your rabbi! Oh my!!! 🙂

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  36. I hope a little complaining doesn’t negate feeling grateful.

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  37. Very wise and very entertaining. Love the pups!

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  38. Enjoyed your post. Job was a great comfort to me when I went through the trials and tribulations of getting fired by the District Superintendent of a small part time Methodist Church. He was a jerk. The former DS and I were good friends. Then this guy! Enough to make a preacher cuss! I was hoping to not have to go back into teaching. I got a job on a tough inner city school. I lasted 6 months and was in the verge of a nervous breakdown and had to resign. Ahh. Job. He came through for me when I needed him most!

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  39. Yes!! Love this post!

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