Friday, 29 December, 2023 - 8:54 am

Emily Hand was orphaned from her mother at two years old. Learning to live without her mother would prove to be just a small part of Emily’s endurance.

On October 7 the Irish-Israeli eight-year-old was abducted by a terrorist and brought into Gaza as a hostage.

After nearly two months she was released and reunited with her father, Thomas. He is overjoyed at her safe reunion.

However, after a few weeks he noticed that she still speaks in whispers. The terrorists did not let them speak in normal tones. She had become so accustomed to whisper – on pain of death – that it has become the only thing she knows.

She is free from Hamas, but cannot rid herself of Hamas.


In this week’s parsha Vayechi, the Jewish people go through a serious transition. Decades earlier they had left their homeland of Canaan (Israel) to sojourn in Egypt at the behest of their brother Yoseph. Life was good. Their brother/uncle was the viceroy of Egypt. They had their own Jewish neighborhood and were free to practice their faith (which was otherwise banned in Egypt).

However, that was decades earlier. Now, their Patriarch Yaakov (Jacob) had passed and been buried back in Israel. Their brother Yoseph is now on his deathbed. Next parsha will reveal immense suffering for the Jewish people. Times are a-changing.

The Torah tells us that, “Joseph adjured the children of Israel, saying, "G-d will remember and remember you, and you shall take up my bones out of here." Yoseph was essentially making the same request that his father had made. ‘I want to be buried in our homeland Israel.  Our stay in Egypt is temporary. At some point G-d will lead us back to our land. I realize it will be virtually impossible to bury me in Israel now (the Egyptians would not allow their royal member to be buried elsewhere). Promise me that you will disinter me and take my body with you when you leave.’ Eventually, Yoseph is indeed buried in Shechem (Nablus).

Why does Yoseph use a double expression, “G-d will remember and remember you?”


Yoseph was worried that Jews would become conditioned to exile. They would become so deeply enmeshed in Egyptian society – either by coercion or choice – and would not be able to separate themselves from Egypt. In other words, after years of victimhood in Egypt, Jews may no longer see themselves as the apple of G-d’s eye. They may no longer cherish their divine mandate. They may forget their homeland and its sanctity.

If that were to happen then G-d might take the Jews out of Egypt but Egypt would not be taken out of them. Like Emily Hand, they might be free as a practical matter. But, mentally and emotionally, they may be stuck in Egypt forever.

So, Yoseph reminded them and empowered them to view themselves as truly free people. As servants of G-d – not Pharaoh. As influencers, not the influenced. As purposeful, not purposeless. As liberated, not enslaved.

Unfortunately, many Jews did sink into a depressed state of fatalism and resigned their identity to one of slavery and exile. When the time for their redemption finally arrived, G-d needed to remember them (redeem them from Egypt) and remember them (take the Egypt out of them).

Let us pray that in our current state of exile, we only allow our bodies to participate in displacement and suffering. Our souls will always identify with our eternal values and mission; with our eternal freedom and purpose.

Let's un-condition ourselves from exile, so we can allow our souls to soar. 

If we remember now, we won’t need G-d to remind us again later.

And, may we soon march – hand in hand with Emily Hand and all the hostages – to the Messianic era of peace and perfection, with the universal redemption from our current state of exile.

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