II Kings 4: 1-7

A certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets cried out to Elisha, saying, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the Lord. And the creditor is coming to take my two sons to be his slaves.” So Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?” And she said, “Your maidservant has nothing in the house but a jar of oil.” Then he said, “Go, borrow vessels from everywhere, from all your neighbors—empty vessels; do not gather just a few. And when you have come in, you shall shut the door behind you and your sons; then pour it into all those vessels, and set aside the full ones.” So she went from him and shut the door behind her and her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured [it] out. Now it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” And he said to her, “There is not another vessel.” So the oil ceased. 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 live on the rest.”

Interpretation: Five elements helped the woman change her situation: Divine grace (miracle), channeled through a gifted caregiver/ personal guide (Elisha); community (neighbors) for practical help with the things she could not do for herself, family (sons who passed her the vessels) and the woman herself who had to find the initial strength in her house, inside her (the initial vessels). Elisha assumes that everyone, no matter how discouraged, does have some inner resources that can be used as the beginning of the healing process.

Miriam Berkowitz