Kenneth Cohen

Lessons From Yakov and His Family

Parshat Vayigash might be the most emotional Parsha in the whole Torah. We learn of Yosef’s revealing himself to his brothers, and his reunion with his father.

Each of these events carried with it a very significant message. In the case of the brothers, we learn a great deal by their reaction in seeing their estranged brother as prime minister of Egypt.

The Pasuk tells us that the brothers were in a state of shock, and could not speak. The comment of the Rabbis was that if they could not answer their own brother when they are exposed and now accountable for their actions, how will we be able to stand before the Al-mighty on our day of reckoning?

We all tend to ignore or maintain a sense of denial, regarding our own mortality. Most of us are aware, that we believe in reward and punishment, and ultimate justice will be served for all of our actions. The story of Joseph and his brothers, serves as a reminder that we need to get our acts together, so that we be worthy of only reward.

The meeting of Yakov and Yosef, taught us another important lesson. Despite the incredible joy that Yakov must have felt at that moment, he paused to recite the Shema prayer. We are told that Yosef wept on the shoulder of Yakov, but it did not say that Yakov did the same.

We are to be reminded that in our greatest moments of joy or sadness, we must not forget our connection to Hashem. The bond that we build with Him, must never be weakened. He is a part of every moment of our lives, including every breath that we take.

The Torah is a guide for us, as to how we are to conduct ourselves. The biblical stories help to drive home these points.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at