Image: A Syrian refugee mother and her newborn infant at a clinic near Ramtha, Jordan. Photo: Russell Watkins/Department for International Development/Wikimedia some rights reserved. 

This post was written by Emmett Koehler. Emmett is a member of the Board of Trustees of Temple Sinai in Oakland, CA, a leader in their young adults group, and I am proud to say that he’s a graduate of my Intro to the Jewish Experience class. He wrote this as a meditation on the prayer Emet v’Emunah (Truth and Faith) from the evening service, for the Community Shabbat Service.


The sleeping children are awakened by their mothers’ trembling hands.

The same weathered hands that clutched these children the night before, praying the angel of death would pass over them.

The mothers’ hands are busy making bread that won’t be baked, packing only what can be carried, and bolting the doors and windows of homes they will never see again.

Some hands are confident, moving strong and sure with the certainty of freedom; while others are hesitant, slick with fear.

These mothers’ hands, old and young, weak and strong, once held sons and brothers and husbands who left, but never returned.

In vain, their hands shield children from the sights of sorrow, women holding lifeless sons who were not passed over by the angel of death.

The mothers point fingers east, into the desert, but cannot fathom the pain and sorrow and toil that await their tired and broken hands.

But these selfless hands will raise the children who one day pick up stones and plows and bows to build a nation these mothers will never see

GOD stretched out a hand over Egypt to deliver the people of Israel from slavery, sending plagues and performing miracles. And in this time, a thousand hands of a thousand mothers carried their children out of Egypt, to freedom.

– Emmett Koehler

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