Weekly Torah Commentary – Vayeira November 18, 2016

Torah reading:  Genesis 18-22

Haftorah reading:  2 Kings 4:1-37

“Now there a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets cried to Elisha, saying, Your servant my husband is dead; and you know that your servant feared the LORD: and the creditor has come to take my two sons as slaves.  And Elisha said to her, What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in your house? And she said, Your handmaid has nothing in the house, but a pot of oil.  Then he said, Go, borrow containers from all your neighbors, empty vessels; borrow not a few.  And when you return, shut the door on yourself and your sons, and pour out into all those containers, until all are full.  So she went away from him, and shut the door on herself and her sons, who brought the containers to her; and she poured out.  And it came to pass, when all the containers were full, that she said to her son, Bring me one more. And he replied, There are no more. And the oil stopped.  Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, Go, sell the oil, and pay your debt, and you and your sons can live on the rest.”  2 Kings 4: 1-7

Did you notice that this poor lady is a “widow?”  That makes her two boys “fatherless”;  which puts all three of them in a special category according to the Scriptures.  Listen to Psalm 146:9 which says:  “The Lord … supports the fatherless and the widow!”

She was left with debts when her husband passed away and according to the legal system of that time, surviving sons were subject to slavery for as long as it took to ‘work off’ the debt.

Elisha first called upon her to stir up her faith in God’s provision. To borrow empty containers from her neighbors would invite awkward questions, but she did as the word of God through His prophet commanded her.  She translated her faith into action.  God always responds to faith for FAITH is the wealth of the heavenly life. ‘Wishing’ that God would intervene in your life is one thing.  Being ‘willing’ to act in faith is quite another.


The prophet’s instruction was to begin pouring from the tiny flask of oil she had in the house into the jars her sons had collected.  She obeyed and one has to wonder what thoughts went through her head.  Put yourself in her shoes.  Visualize her simple table covered with numerous empty jugs and jars of clay and one little oil flask in her hand with most likely less than half a cup of oil.

Imagine her amazement as she begins with the largest jug that may have been able to contain a quart.  The oil keeps pouring from the tiny flask.  It pours…and pours…and pours.  Soon the dozens of containers are full of oil and peeking into the flask she realizes there is still more oil in it!

If she had borrowed just few vessels, she would have but little oil; the prophet had said ‘not a few’.  She borrowed many vessels and they were all filled. To a degree, she herself determined what she should have.  There is a great spiritual principle here:  in the matter of spiritual blessings from God, we have more to do with the measurement of our blessings than we think. We too often limit ourselves to small blessings because our faith and our prayers are small.

God’s provision and blessing in our life invites our participation.  How often we read in the book of Deuteronomy: “If you will…I will…”  That is not to diminish the abundant love of God towards us and turn it into a ‘works’ system; this woman’s ‘work’ was to believe in the prophet’s word and act accordingly.  Had she dismissed the prophet’s instruction as ‘foolish’ or ‘ludicrous’, not one extra drop of oil would have poured from her flask.

This is why we read in Habakkuk 2:4 “…But the righteous will live by his faith.”  This is the example left us by our father, Abraham, whose faith in the Word of the LORD made him a ‘father of nations’ – not just one nation, but many.

Biblical faith is the strong and unshakeable belief, without physical proof or evidence, that God is Who He says He is and His revealed Word is absolute truth upon which we can stake our lives.  Men and women of faith do not limit their perspective or attitude about what is happening around them according to what they can see with their eyes or reason with their imagination.  Men and women of faith stand firm on what the LORD has said.

Faith is a channel of living trust—an assurance—that stretches from man to God.

This widow, whose name we are not told, stands out to every Bible believing person throughout the centuries as an example of that living trust.  Her situation was desperate; no hope was in sight. But God…

In Tune with Torah this week = what situation are you facing in your life right now that you would describe as ‘stressful’?  Is it as hopeless as this widow’s problem?  Or do you feel like it, even if it isn’t as literally as desperate?  May her example stir up your faith and renew your trust in the Holy One of Israel Whose faithfulness is unshakeable, unstoppable, undiminished and unfinished in your life and mine.

Shabbat Shalom!

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