Kenneth Cohen

Yakov’s Lack of Compassion

The Messilat Yesharim points out how G-d is very exacting with the righteous like the thread of hair. The greater the individual, the greater the expectations, for meticulously excellent behavior.

One example that appeared to be a minor infraction had to do with Yakov and Rachel. She complained to her husband that she was childless. She said that he should give her children, and if not, she was like a dead woman.

Yakov did not respond with compassion for the plight of his beloved wife. Instead, he said, “Am I in place of G-d that I can give you children?” He needed to pay for his lack of sensitivity. For someone else, this does need seem to be a punishable offense. But more was expected from a holy man like Yakov.

The Messilat Yesharim wrote that the punishment was that in the future, his ten sons would one day be subservient to Rachel’s son, Yosef. This came true in Egypt, when Yosef was elevated to a high position. After Yakov’s death, his brothers were afraid that he would take revenge for their having sold him. Yosef answered with the exact words Yakov said to Rachel, התחת אלוקים אנוכי, “Am I in place of G-d?”

We must learn from our Patriarchs and Matriarchs, how to treat others. We must never be insensitive to the pain of another individual. We must do all that we can to alleviate that pain.

This is especially true today, when we have not nearly recovered from the horrific acts of October seventh. There is so much healing that needs to take place. Our support can be very helpful in ways we do not realize. We must rise to the occasion, and be there for our fellow Jews.

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