Weekly Dvar Torah: A Small Flask of Oil

A dear friend of mine, Rabbi Yerachmiel Gorelik, the Chabad Shliach in Tyumen, faraway Siberia, in Russia, told me this story:

He invited his community to his birthday Farbrengen, and this is what he shared:

In this week’s Haftorah, you know that thing that every Bar-Mitzvah boy practices for a year before his Bar-Mitzvah, we learn about the poor widow who complained to Elisha the prophet about her dire situation.

Your servant, my husband died, and the debtor came to take my children as slaves to pay for the debt.

Elisha askes, what do you possess at home?

I have nothing but a flask of oil.

Says Elisha, go out and borrow as many vessels that you can get from your neighbors, don’t limit the number of vessels, take as many as you can put your hands on, close the door behind you and start filling the empty vessels from the flask of oil, and the full ones put away.

She did as instructed, and her sons held empty vessels and she kept filling them.

She asked her son for another vessel, and the son said there are no more empty vessels, and the oil stopped.

Finally, Elisha said, sell this oil to pay off the debt, and you and your children will live off the remaining money.

The Alter Rebbe once told a Chossid in Yechidus (private audience); the woman = אשה, is the soul, Elisha, is G-d.

The soul cries out to G-d, your servant, my husband = אישי, the fire of my soul extinguished, I lost my strength to serve G-d, the debtor, the animal soul took my feelings of fear and love to You G-d, I feel empty, I have no feelings to keep Torah and Mitzvos, all I’m left with is a small flask of oil, the essence of my Jewish soul, the Pintele Yid.

Says G-d, don’t minimize the empty vessels, even if you feel empty, even if you have no feelings, even if you feel no desire, don’t give up, serve me with self-sacrifice even if without emotion, and the essence of your soul, the oil of your soul will start flowing and will start to fill the empty vessels.

I ended my words, many times when we need to do a Mitzvah, we feel empty, why put on Tefillin? Why keep Shabbos? Why go to class and study Torah? I have no feelings for all of this.

Says G-d, disregard your empty feelings, put on Tefillin, keep Shabbos, light Shabbos candles, study Torah, and the oil will start flowing from the essence of your soul, it will ignite the fire of love and fear of G-d.

Hearing these words, Solomon poured himself a cup of L’Chaim to give a toast.

Rabbi I just heard what you said, four years ago when we first met and you asked me to put on Tefillin, I did you a personal favor and I obliged, but I had absolutely no understanding nor did I have feelings for what I was doing, I was an empty vessel.

Now I must admit, I no longer feel empty, lately I feel full, I am full of feeling and emotion every time I do a Mitzvah, I feel connected to G-d, and I do it with my whole heart and soul.

I want to thank the Rebbe for sending you to Tyumen to fill my vessels.

Have a warm feeling of a Shabbos,
Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Yosef Katzman

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