Kenneth Cohen

Refusing Comfort

The tragic story of Yosef and his brothers began when Yakov was sent the “coat of many colors,” drenched in blood. He was deeply saddened by its implication, but he refused to be comforted.

The Rabbis explain this by describing how Hashem set up a system, as to how we deal with death. There is a kind of mysterious decree, that when one loses a loved one, they will eventually be forgotten from the heart.

It does not mean that we will know longer think about our dearly departed, but there is a kind of built in coping mechanism. Somehow, after the mourning period, we manage to pick ourselves up and continue living.

This is not the case if that loved one, has not really died. This was why Yakov refused to be comforted. He subconsciously knew that Yosef was still alive. This is not something that can be explained rationally. It is just the way it is.

There are cases in the Talmud where a woman hears rumors that her husband has passed away overseas. She might be asked how she feels about this rumor. There are instances where her feelings of his demise, are enough to be relied upon, for her to remarry.

The current situation with the hostages, are very similar. We are all praying and hoping for the return of all of our captives. We don’t want to think of the unthinkable. We sincerely hope that all of the families are refusing to be comforted, like Yakov. And we hope that we will soon see a happy reunion with all of the families, just like Yakov. As we say in Hebrew, שנשמע בשורות טובות, may we hear only good news!

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