Remembering Chaya bas Orah by Malka Winner

Remembering Chaya bas Orah by Malka Winner

For this year’s Chanukah Contest, I asked readers to nominate mothers who are their personal candle in the darkness, the most inspirational JewishMOM they know. Here is the 1st semifinalist, submitted by Malka Winner of Karmiel, Israel.

The most inspiring Jewish mom I know I passed away last week, on Sunday, 10 Kislev. She was 36.

As I watched her body getting lowered into the grave and heard the sound of earth being poured over her remains, I reflected on how unfitting it was that this woman who was so, so, so alive could be dead.

Chaya bas Orah had cancer for the past 4.5 years. Though she surely suffered greatly, we, her neighbors, didn’t really know about it. That’s because she used the time she had left in this world to grow and grow and grow some more – and give. Although she had been an “ordinary” person before her ordeal, in her final years she became someone truly extraordinary.

She frequently spoke to our community about faith and trusting in Hashem, urging us to grow in our emuna and service of Hashem.

She encouraged us to thank G-d for everything in our lives, both the good and the difficult, and to take on small kabbalos [personal resolutions] that could help us improve how we serve Hashem.

Chaya used her devastating illness not only to uplift herself, but to bring the rest of us along with her. Chaya became an inspiration to our entire community.

Chaya was first diagnosed when she was 8 months pregnant with her third child. Her doctors told her she needed an emergency C-section so they could start treatment immediately.

Although Chaya had faced years of secondary infertility and had been greatly anticipating the birth of her baby, she was forced, on top of the cancer, to overcome yet another extremely difficult challenge…

Because she had to start chemotherapy immediately, she would not be able to care for her newborn preemie. So Chaya approached a friend who had been married for many years and was still childless, and asked if she would be able to take her baby and care for her during that time.

And Chaya gave her friend a blessing that in the merit of taking care of her baby she would be blessed with children of her own.

Chaya’s blessing, given at a time of grave person difficulty, seems to have worked. Her friend has since given birth to three children!

When Chaya would attend school events, like her daughter’s Siddur Party, her face would be shining.

I envied her ability to really live, to be in the present, to be so mindful of her precious moments on this earth.

While some of us other mothers there would be looking at our watches or worrying about what was going on at home, she would be sitting there, radiant and so full of life, eyes focused on her little girl. She was taking it all in, soaking it all up and really truly living her life.

Chaya bas Orah appreciated every moment she had – and she made me appreciate my own life, too.

Just seeing her, just having her as a neighbor, forced me to wonder how I could infuse a little bit of Chaya’s “life” into my own…

Could I be mindful like her?
Appreciative like her?
Present and radiant like her?

Her tragic death this week has not only left her husband and three little orphans bereft, it has plunged our entire community into mourning.

Chaya bas Orah. Her name literally meant “Life, daughter of Light” and she truly lived up to her name.

May those of us who merited to know her during her short lifetime carry on her legacy by continuing to bring her beautiful, shining, living light into our own lives and homes.

L’ilui nishmas Chaya bas Lev, aleha shalom.


  1. Thank you Chanah for posting. May her name be a blessing and a yalitz osher for Am Yisrael…May we learn daily from Chayas amazing middot to make the most of every second in our lives…May her Neshama continue to have an Aliyah…

  2. Dani margolies

    Wow. That was so so inspiring and so so sad to have lost her. Thank you for sharing.

  3. I meant to say Melitz Yosher…But I think the Osher part of my mistake was significant :)…Her spreading of light and joy

  4. Nechama Koren

    Really powerful!! Thank you for letting us know about her.

  5. Dear Malka Winner,

    Thank you for taking the time to write about Chaya bas Ora, and sharing the light of her candle and helping to illuminate all our lives with her shining example.

    May haShem comfort her husband, children, and her community. May we all be reunited with our loves ones very, very soon.

    I will try to think, when I lack emuna, clarity, strength, patience, fortitude, or peace, what would Chaya bas Ora do?

    Thank you again.

  6. This cannot be a contest…. all these stories are too wonderful and inspiring and heartwarming and heartbreaking and unique all at once….. they are ALL winners and guiding lights for all of us!!

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