Sarah’s Corner: Inspiration During Difficult Times


Inspiration During Difficult Times

Sarah Pachter

It was almost a year ago when Los Angeles County announced the Stay At Home order due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Needless to say, this year has been a challenging one for most of us. Although we are all in different boats, the ocean is the same. We feel burnt out and worn down from the distress that COVID-19 causes in our life, and could use some inspiration to pick us up.

If anyone can serve as an inspiration, it’s Cheri Tannenbaum. She certainly knows a thing or two about struggle. Cheri was diagnosed with a rare disorder called dystonia, which leaves her handicapped in many facets. Her speech and ability to walk are compromised, making basic activities difficult to perform. Rather than falling to despair, she approaches each day with resilience. She wrote a book, Woman of Few Words,in which she shares mantras she lives by, and other strengthening quotes. I compiled some of my favorites from her book, and feel that these ideas can offer us another perspective of suffering during these trying times.

“[A nisayon] You could look at it another way. The word nisayon has the word nes in it, which means miracle. The test is there to bring out the miracle in you, to elicit strength that is uncharacteristic and unfamiliar. God is not picking on you, rather he’s training you to be miraculous.”

  • Rochel Holzkenner[1] 

“You are playing a game called “My Perfect Life.” Every day, you strive to have perfect health, perfect finances, and the perfect marriage. Or as close as you can get to them. When suffering occurs, you’re angry because that means your game is being ruined. What game is G-d playing? It’s called “The Perfect Story.” G-d wants to tell the greatest story ever told…

So where are you in this game? You’re on camera! You’re an actor and He’s the director. You’ve been in this movie the whole time. The problem is, you don’t realize you’re in it… Until one day you decide to listen.  The words you hear affect you to the very core of your being. You begin to feel like you’ve awakened from a bad dream. Things begin to come into focus.

This is what the director said, “my child I choose you for the specific role for a reason. I waited a long time for you to turn to Me and find out what it was… Your role is to find a way to be a hero for someone else…

I wish you to uplift others who have fallen with a kind word or small act of charity. I wish you would feel grateful for all the good that surrounds you, and that you would humbly accept the challenge to overcome the rest…

 And where will I be? I will be with you in that moment of pain… because we are not separate… and you’ll never be alone.”

  • Shmuel Pollen[2]

“I realize that my intentions had not been pure to begin with. In the back of my mind, I wanted this esteem that would come with being the only woman shatnez tester in Israel. Without pure intentions, things usually do not work out.”

  • Cheri Tannenbaum[3]

“It would be so much easier for me to just crawl into bed, pull the covers over my head and never get up. From the first day of my illness to this very day, I wake up each morning, say Modeh Ani (the prayer said upon awakening in the morning), push myself out of bed, and consciously and deliberately choose life.

I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. You shall choose life so that you and your descendants shall live. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Happiness is a choice.

I must take life every second as it comes. I know that my day will be a constant struggle and full of humiliation. I try to surround myself with positive, supportive people. I take help from others when I need it. I try to give to someone else, to transcend my own self absorption.”

  • Cheri Tannenbaum[4]

“All of the struggles, all of the complications and obstacles of life, are sent to us as an opportunity to spur us along towards [the] greatness of the creation of the mind. These small struggles are all intended as goads to prod us towards the realization that we must turn to Hashem. Every small challenge that your face is actually challenging you to recognize that Hashem is everything, and that he’s your address for anything you want.”

  • Rabbi Wohlhendler, Adapted from Rav Avigdor Miller’s Parsha tapes[5]

“Our relationship to Hashem is often dependent on his ability to fill our needs and desires. As human beings, we naturally desire pleasure and comfort. When we are showered with what we define as good, we generally do not question God‘s ways. If life events do not clash with our perception of good or comfortable, then we are not provoked to question his divine plan. We merely take things for granted and expect them to flow as we believe they should. However, if our needs and comforts are not met, we may begin to question his ways. This mistaken outlook is a product of our limited egos, a lack of knowledge of the full picture and a lack of emunah of everything that happens is for the best.”

  • Orit Esther Riter[6]

“One of the most difficult parts of any hardship is feeling that we are going through it alone. We often think that nobody understands what we are experiencing. However there is a remedy. We would have so much comfort if we internalized the fact that we are never alone. Hashem knows exactly what we are experiencing. He knows how hard it is, and he feels it even more than we do.”

  • “We Are Not Alone”[7]

“Faith is not knowing what the future holds. It’s knowing who holds the future.”

  • Rabbi Benjamin Blech

“In the morning prayers, we thank G-d for giving the rooster the intuition and ability to differentiate between day and night.  Rabbi Nachman of Breslov says that we also have the ability to differentiate. What does the rooster differentiate? When does it sense day? When it senses light coming at the darkest moment of the night. The last part of the night is the darkest moment of the night. Even when things seem so very dark, the rooster has the ability to sense and understand that there will be light. No matter how dark our life may seem, no matter how difficult it may seem, we need to say, ‘Thank you, Hashem, for giving me the ability to sense that even in my darkest moment, light will come.’

  • Rabbi Yechiel Spero[8]

“There is no “I can’t.” God can make anything possible in our lives. We need to wake up every day and look at the road ahead, saying: With G-d’s help, I can do this.”

  • Sarah Debbie Gutfreund[9]

“God has more information than we do; thus we cannot judge Him and say he is doing something bad. We trust God and say, “I haven’t yet figured out why, but God knows this is for the best.”

  • “Suffering: Why?”[10]

“Although it may seem counterintuitive,  the moment of our greatest pain and sorrow is the moment when we can feel Hashem’s embrace.  At a time of hester panim [G-d’s hiddenness], Hashem is very close. Sadly, all too often, when we are struck by troubles and misfortunes, we close our hearts. We shut our lips from prayer and turn away from Hashem. We can instead offer up our pain to Hashem and in doing so, access his love. These are times that are supercharged; from within them, we can gain a relationship with our maker  that is laden with love.”

  • Rebbetzin Shira Smiles[11]

“We need to know that Hashem is closest to us during our most difficult moments. He comes at times of hardship and pain to be with us to encourage us and to tell us, ‘I wish it could be different now but this is what you need. Do not worry, I’m here to help you.’ Whenever we are in pain, God is also in pain.”

  • Orit Esther Riter[12] 

“God gives everyone exactly what they need to achieve their purpose in the world. It doesn’t matter what anyone else has. Life is about doing the best we can in the situation that God put us in. It is so important to remember that we have no control over the results. All that matters is our effort.”

[1] Rochel Holzkenner, “Faith Under Fire” from

[2] Shmuel Pollen, “Why Does G-d Allow Suffering?” from

[3] Cheri Tannenbaum, Woman of Few Words, page 50

[4] Cheri Tannenbaum, Woman of Few Words, page103-104

[5] Rabbi Wohlhendler, adapted from Rav Avigdor Miller’s Parsha tapes

[6] Orit Esther Riter,

[7] “We Are Not Alone” Daily Emunah column,

[8] Rabbi Yechiel Spero, Inspiration Daily, Yeshiva Ateres Shimon

[9] Sarah Debbie Gutfreund, “Lessons from Running”

[10] “Suffering: Why?”

[11] Rebbetzin Shira Smiles “Eshet Lot: Salt of the Earth”

[12] Orit Esther Riter

[13] “Why Me?” Daily Eumunah