Kenneth Cohen

True Remorse

There is a very powerful Pasuk that speaks of the remorse of the brothers, in how they treated Yosef. They expressed this after they were accused by Yosef of being spies.

The brothers spoke to one another and said, “But we are all guilty because of our brother. We saw his afflicted soul, when he begged us, and we did not hear. This is why all of these troubles have befallen us.”

The Midrash goes into greater detail as to how Yosef, a seventeen year old cried profusely and pleaded for mercy from his brothers. They callously threw him into a pit, and eventually sold him.

When one wishes to do Teshuva, repentance, his חרטה, or regret, is essential towards getting back on the right path. It may be relatively easy to say, “I’m sorry.” It is more difficult to add the words, “I was wrong.” But it is most difficult to get to the level of real remorse, where we feel great shame.

How was it possible that I could have rebelled against Hashem, Who gives me life?How could I have hurt someone that I love by being so insensitive? How could I have shamed someone by not considering the anguish I am causing.

Getting to the point of true חרטה, requires hard work. It also requires humility on our part, to admit that we messed up. The brothers of Yosef got a wake up call, to make them realize that their self righteousness, was really cruelty. We need to wake up ourselves, and begin treating G-d, our loved ones, and all that we meet, with the kindness, respect, and love that they deserve.

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