Vayera: Filling Empty Vessels

Copyright 2011 Neal Joseph Loevinger

Torah Portion: Vayera

This week’s haftarah is from 2 Kings, and tells stories of the prophet
Elisha, the disciple of Elijah, who worked wonders of healing and
teaching among the people.

The haftarah is connected to the Torah portion, Vayera, through the
themes of desperation and new hope, and in one particularly striking
image Elisha tells a poor woman, who has creditors knocking at the
door, to borrow empty vessels- jugs and pots- from her neighbors. The
woman had only one jar of oil, but Elisha told her to seclude herself
in her house with her children and pour out the oil from her one jug
into the borrowed vessels- and the oil kept flowing, filling all the
containers and enabling her to pay off her debts. (2 Kings 4:1-7).

This image- of the poor woman pouring out oil into borrowed vessels-
strikes me as a powerful metaphor for renewal in the face of
hopelessness. She had to reach out and draw upon the resources of
others- borrowing the empty containers- in order to discover that she
had more than she knew. Sometimes, when we feel empty and bereft of
strength or creativity, our greatest stumbling block is ill-timed
solitude, a retreat into despair rather than a leap of faith into
community and friendship. Once the poor woman had connected with
others, things “opened up” in new and unexpected ways, and so too may
it be for each of us, that the power of community, fellowship and
mutuality may overcome pessimism and fear.

Shabbat Shalom,


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