| Spirit and Sparks |

Rising Above

We, as women, can see beneath the surface. We’ve been gifted with the incredible ability to grapple with even the most trying situation and glean lessons

Rising Above

Mrs. Malkie Klaristenfeld

When Yaakov recalled that his beloved son Yosef had been killed, and that Binyamin was being forced to descend to Mitzrayim, he threw up his hands and cried, “I can’t anymore. Alai hayu chulanah. All the pain in the world has fallen upon me.”

The Baal HaTurim notes that the only two places in Tanach where the word chulanah is used is here, with Yaakov, and in Mishlei, when Shlomo Hamelech sings the praises of the eishes chayil, proclaiming, “v’at allis al kulanah.”

The eishes chayil has the capacity to rise above all the pain in the world. How can we, like the eishes chayil, rise above the pain that surrounds us?

We can do it, because we know and believe that there’s something beneath the surface that we cannot see. We believe that although we don’t understand everything that happens in our lives, and although many times life is difficult, we still know that in Hashem’s Master Plan for the world, everything is beautiful.

We, as women, can see beneath the surface. We’ve been gifted with the incredible ability to grapple with even the most trying situation and glean lessons.

Mrs. Malkie Klaristenfeld is the director and founder of Knafayim, as well as the director of volunteers for Project Chai of Chai Lifeline.



What serves as your Chanukah candle, as a beacon of light during dark times?

Rebbetzin Michal Cohen

What gets me through the dark times is two different aspects of the concept of trust.

The first part of trust is knowing that those whom we turn to for support will be there for us. For me, knowing that my mother always had a warm meal and a smile for me, and that my father always knew just what to do and how to talk me through my challenges, gave me an amazing foundation.

This was reinforced by my friends, and then by my husband and children who, in their own ways, have demonstrated their support. The result of their love has enabled me to know that the greatest Father of all is taking care of me, even when I’m afraid.

The second part of trust is when we know that others have faith in us. When we know that our family and friends believe in us, and when we feel the confidence that Hashem has in us, then we are inspired to dig deep and face our greatest challenges.

Rebbetzin Michal Cohen LCSW is the rebbetzin of Congregation Adas Yeshurun in Chicago where her husband, Rabbi Zev Cohen, has been the rav for decades. She’s a licensed clinical social worker at a family service agency, counseling individuals, couples, and families, and teaches kallahs under the auspices of Daughters of Israel.


Fan the Flame

A mantra that gets me through the day

I forgive [insert name of one of my children] for causing me irritation/extra exertion/disappointment...

I say this for all of my children, especially for my really challenging one. This helps me stay calm, and then either ignore the behavior or focus on solutions.


“When you look for validation, you’ve already shrunk. You no longer exist in a place of boundless truth, but are limited by the dimensions of someone else’s perceptions.”

Tamar Taback           

A Maaseh for Melaveh Malkah

As Shabbos fades, we sing about David Hamelech, Mashiach, and Eliyahu Hanavi. We can float, if only for a minute or two, on clouds of spirit, through stories that highlight the merging of the spiritual with the physical.

Rav Avraham Chaim, dayan of Zlotchiv and author of Orach Lechaim, suffered immensely from one of the butchers in his city. Finally, Heaven had mercy on him and this butcher moved to the city of Brody.

During this time, Rav Avraham Chaim went to visit his Rebbe, Rav Moshe Leib of Sasov, and met this butcher there. He was astounded to see his Rebbe treating the butcher warmly. Furthermore, when the butcher complained that he was unhappy in Brody and wished to move back to Zlotchiv, the Rebbe blessed him with hatzlachah

When Rav Avraham Chaim complained about this, the Rebbe answered, “In my eyes, no Jew is an unnecessary extra!”

A while later, the police came to Zlotchiv on Yom Kippur night to draft Jews into the army. Furious, the people fought back, and some policemen were killed in the fights. Immediately, the rav and important community members were arrested, including the dayan, Rav Avraham Chaim.

This butcher handed himself into the police saying, “I’m the guilty one. I killed the policemen.” All the rabbanim were freed and only the butcher was sentenced to death.

Soon afterwards, Rav Moshe Leib of Sasov met Rav Avraham Chaim of Zlotchiv and said, “Nu, in my eyes, no Jew is an unnecessary extra.”

The Nameless Match

I often give chizuk to singles who are burnt out from the dating process. I don’t need to look further than my own experience for examples of unbelievable Hashgachah pratis to share with them.

I was under intense pressure throughout my dating years because my maternal grandparents were Holocaust survivors, I was the oldest einikel, and they were anxious to see continuity. Finally, I told my father, “I’m not a skirt and I’m not just marrying a random pair of pants. I have to marry someone I like!”

But that didn’t stop my father from announcing to every person he met that he needed a good boy for his daughter. Once, on a trip to Eretz Yisrael, he visited his parents’ kever. While there, he saw the grave of a man he knew and stopped to say a few kapitlach Tehillim in his zechus.

When he returned to the States, he met this man’s son and let him know that he’d davened at his father’s kever. He then, of course, told him that he had a daughter who needed a shidduch.

A few days later this man called my father and said, “I have a very good boy. Are you interested?”

“I am, but I first need to know his name.”

“Oh, I don’t know his name, but if you’re interested, I’ll find out. I saw the boy in my shul this week and his davening really impressed me.”

I ended up meeting the boy and… marrying him!

So, I tell my audiences, not only did I marry a random pair of pants, but a nameless one as well!


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 720)


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