Kenneth Cohen


The Midrash has an interesting comment, in explaining what the Torah meant by telling us that Yosef was very handsome. It was considered inappropriate that he should be eating and drinking and doing up his hair.

The Midrash continues by telling us that Hashem said that it was so wrong for Yosef to be living it up when his father was grieving over him. This was why the “bear” in the form of Potiphar’s seduction, came after him.

The message here is that Yosef’s lack of sensitivity to his father’s plight, got him into trouble. Perhaps the scenario of how the Jews would have come to Egypt, would have been different.

In any case, the message here has great relevance to our current situation. A friend of mine was debating whether or not to attend the wedding of a close friend’s son, in the States. He could not bring himself to go when his sons were serving in the IDF in Gaza. He canceled his tickets and decided this was the right decision.

As Jews, we are never supposed to be insensitive to the difficult circumstances someone else might be going through. Being able to be empathetic towards others, is a special trait Jews are meant to have.

Yosef’s experience taught us the importance of being able to feel another person’s pain. Indifference and insensitivity, can have very harmful consequences.

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
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