Weekly Dvar Torah: Fill Those Empty Vessels

In this week’s Haftorah we read the story of Elisha the prophet and his miraculous advice to the widow.

A widow of one of the young prophets came crying to Elisha, “I was left alone and the creditor has come to take my two children as slaves.”

Elisha asks, “what do you have in your home?”

“I have nothing but a small flask of oil.”

Elisha instructs her to borrow as many vessels as possible from her neighbors, close the door behind her, and start filling the empty vessels.

The widow does as instructed. She shuts the door with her children at her side, and she starts filling the vessels with the oil from the tiny jug, while the children remove the filled ones and supply her with empty ones.

When the boys say that there are no more empty vessels, the oil stops flowing.

Elisha tells her to sell the oil and pay off the debt, and that she should live off the excess.

Chassidus teaches us the personal and practical lesson from this story.

The widow is called ‘Ishah’ (wife), this refers to the Jewish soul which is like the wife of Hashem.

The soul cries out to Elisha (the G-d of salvation), ‘Ishi’ (your servant my man) died, Ishi (from the word Aish), my passionate fire, the love that I have for You feels dead, and as a result, the debtor, the Yetzer Hora (the evil inclination), came to collect his debt, and he wants to take my two children, the two traits of passionate love and fear of Hashem, and he wants to claim them to be his slaves, and instead of serving Hashem I should serve the evil desires.

G-d responds, you must have something left in your house, there must still be something left to your connection with Me.

The soul responds, I have only one tiny flask of oil, Shemen (oil) which is Chochma, the highest and deepest level of the soul, the Pintele Yid, is all that I have left, just my tiny essence.

Hashem instructs the soul, don’t hold back the empty vessels, even if you feel empty and you feel vulnerable, you feel that your passion for G-dliness is dead, you can still fill the empty feelings with the drop of oil which you have in your Pintele Yid.

When you contemplate on your feeling of emptiness, your feeling of lowness, then you will have an arousal of Teshuva, and the tiny flask of oil from the essence of your soul, will fill all these empty vessels with a passion for G-d.

Once the empty vessels are filled, you will then live from the excess, there will be an abundance of excess oil, like light which follows darkness, an ascent which follows a descent.

You will then reach such high levels that you couldn’t achieve without this ordeal.

A person feels limited, and sometimes intimidated, by the confines of the world, that prevent him from connecting with G-d, so he cries out to Hashem and says, I feel like I’m dead, my feelings for you are diminished, they are gone, I feel like I’ll be overtaken and controlled by the evil inclination, I have nothing with which to fight back and protect myself.

Says Hashem, as long as you still have a drop of oil, as long as you have the Pintele Yid, the tiny dot of a Jew in you, albeit tiny, you can always take from that tiny point and refill your emptiness with a passion for G-d.

All you need to do is meditate on that feeling of emptiness. This is the process of Teshuva; you awaken within yourself a desire to return to your good old self, and watch how that tiny flask of oil will fill-up every empty vessel in sight. The two boys, the passionate love and fear that lay dormant, will wake up and ignite to full blast to serve Hashem as His servants without danger or fear of intimidation.

When feeling down and melancholy, this can be the first step to Teshuva, the road of return to G-d who will miraculously fill up whatever is empty, to sustain you forever materially and spiritually till the coming of Moshiach speedily.

Have an oily and passionate Shabbos,
Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Yosef Katzman

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