D'vrei Torah by Rabbi Ellie Shemtov
Try to replace guilt with gratitude
At some point in our lives we have all felt remorse, guilt or regret for something we did wrong; for the harm we may have caused another person; or even for an action we took that may not have been the right one to pursue. These feelings of remorse, guilt and regret are often reinforced when later on we are somehow reminded of what we did.
Remorse, guilt and regret can also be psychological bummers that make us aware of what we could have and should have done better. Maybe we shouldn’t have spread gossip. Maybe we shouldn’t have cheated on our spouse. Maybe we shouldn’t have lied about our bad habits.
One way to get over our guilt is to accept responsibility for what we did, ask for forgiveness and be thankful for the lesson learned. In this way we begin to ensure that our guilt will not get in the way of our gratitude.
In this week’s Torah portion Vayechi, Jacob knowing he is about to die, calls together all of his sons. Addressing each one individually and providing instructions as to his burial, Jacob is then וַיֵּאָסֶף אֶל־עַמָּֽיו, gathered to his people.
Despite Joseph’s earlier assurance that he bears no grudge against them, the brothers worry that with Jacob out of the way Joseph will now feel free to take his revenge on them. As a result, they concoct a story about Jacob leaving instructions before his death urging Joseph to forgive his brothers. The brothers then fling themselves before Joseph and offer to become slaves in Egypt. But Joseph again assures them he bears no grudge.
In the years since Joseph revealed himself, the brothers’ lack of faith made them wary of Joseph’s true intention. Instead of enjoying those years with their brother, they were fearful of his revenge. Instead of being grateful for God’s goodness they felt guilty about what they did to their brother and father. In order to find peace and move on with their lives, Joseph’s brothers will need to find a way to replace their guilt with gratitude.