In Parshat Shelakh Lekha, after the spies returned and slandered the Land of Israel, and the People of Israel cried out and complained bitterly, “Then the Holy One, blessed be He, said: You have cried for no reason, I will give you something to cry about for generations!” Needless crying triggered a devastating punishment of destruction, hardship, suffering, and exile that continues until today.
Both the First and Second Temples were destroyed, the Inquisition, pogroms, the Holocaust, and more, all because our people needlessly cried one night? The punishment appears rather shocking. The answer is simple — Hashem despises ingratitude more than any other sin.
Hashem does thousands of kindnesses for us every day. Hashem personally oversees every aspect of our lives. By crying and complaining we show ingratitude to Hashem; hence the punishment for baseless crying is the greatest of all.
We must understand that the reason the punishment for the crying in the desert continues is because we are still needlessly crying and complaining today! We continue to cry and complain about everything that doesn’t go according to our desires.
Today’s exile and the reason we still do not have our Temple is not because of Hashem’s anger thousands of years ago in the desert, G-d forbid. It is because Hashem desires that we rectify this sin and completely uproot ungratefulness from our lives. “I will give you something to cry about for generations” means that as long as we, Am Yisrael, continue to cry and complain, dinim (stern judgments) are awakened, just like the dinim the crying in the desert caused. If we would uproot this terrible trait of ingratitude, the Redemption would come.
Based on The Garden of Gratitude, by Rabbi Shalom Arush