Frustration – Parshat Vaetchanan

We all want to feel good all the time. We also know that stuff happens and our sense of stability is threatened. We often try to ignore this knowledge and live our lives "as if". We make plans, we invest time, energy and money based on dreams of how we wish to see our future. There are business plans and personal development programs that encourage us to see a few years down the line and build our present lives in order to fulfill those dreams. Yet stuff happens. We try to accomplish life tasks and are frustrated when those efforts come to naught. Our dreams get upset and we need to find a detour to fulfill them or totally reassess them. Or give up and find another dream to follow. We get frustrated.

One of the endearing, edifying and outstanding characteristics of our biblical leaders is their humanity. They often display emotion, show caring, have dilemmas and are even, at times, held to account for errors committed. Moshe prays to God in a last-ditch effort to be allowed into Israel.1 Rashi, in explaining Moshe's prayer at the beginning of this week's parsha, describes Moshe's intense desire to enter Israel. His request is refused. Rashi continues to explain that the verse immediately following God's reply "They were in  the valley opposite Baal Peor", seems to imply a certain frustration. Even though the nation, who sinned at Peor, will be entering Israel, he, Moshe, would not. How frustrating!

Yet he goes on leading. He does not let his frustration interfere with his desire to lead the people.He continues to show them a better way and care for them as he had for forty years.

Frustration can be brought about by outer or inner circumstances – whether they be physical or emotional – and how they impact on our ability to reach our dreams.  We can understand Doctor Viktor Frankl's explanation of this frustration as a frustration of our will to meaning and that it is existential in character as it may touch on our very interest in living a meaningful life.2

I, too, get frustrated by life. Dreams I had that have been put on hold, people who I had trusted who disappointed and my own faults which have gotten in my way all have led to frustration. Even trying to write about frustration within the limited scope of this blog is frustrating. It is not a pleasant feeling.

Being frustrated is also a blessing. Noting what frustrates us shows what is important to us. It can help us refilter and refocus on those things which are more important to us. If we use frustration well, as frustrating as it may seem, it can become an important catalyst for us. It may feel unpleasant and also take a while for this process to unfold, which is also frustrating (boy, I'm using that word a lot). Are we open to it? Can we use it properly? Do we want to?

Being able to answer those questions in the affirmative can even help us to say: Thank God I'm frustrated.


Image by lukasbieri at pixabay


  1. Devarim 3:23-9
  2. Frankl, Viktor E.. The Will to Meaning (p. 66). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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