Isha Hatzarfasis and Purim (Malachim I 17:8-16) Eliyahu HaNavi Part 3

By Rabbi Eliyahu Asher Prero


 “Kad HaKemach Lo Sichla- V’tzapachas HaShemen Lo Sechsar 

“The Container of Flour Will Not Finish, and the Pitcher of Oil Will Not Empty” 

Eliyahu HaNavi declared there should be a drought until the Jews would do teshuva from avoda zara. Eliyahu HaNavi resided in Nachal Krees as the drought became progressively worse for the B’nei Yisrael. Hashem told Eliyahu HaNavi to leave Nachal Krees and travel to a place named Tzarfas, which was in Eretz Yisrael (Radak). There, an almana (widow), would feed and sustain Eliyahu HaNavi. 

As Eliyahu HaNavi arrived in Tzarfas he found an almana by the gate of the city. Eliyahu HaNavi asked her for a drink of water, and she gave him to drink. Then, he asked her for some bread. The almana responded “By the life of Hashem, I have no bread remaining! The only food I have has left is a handful of flour in a container (kad) and a little bit of oil in a pitcher (tzapachas). I came to the gate of the city to find some wood to heat up the flour and oil as a final meal for me and my son, after which, my family will die.” 

Eliyahu HaNavi responded,” Do not fear. Take whatever food you have, and make me a small cake first. Then, make a small cake for yourself and your son. For Hashem said, the vessel of flour will not finish, and the pitcher of oil will not empty (kad hakemach lo sichla- v’tzapachas hashemen lo sechsar), until Hashem brings rain onto the land.” The almana went and did like Eliyhau HaNavi said. Then, she ate from her cake first, and then he ate from his cake. There was enough food to last many days, and the vessel of flour and pitcher of oil were always full. 

A couple of questions come to mind. Typically, when a Rebbe or Rosh Yeshiva comes to town, they are hosted and supported by the great philanthropists of our community.  And yet, Hashem told Eliyahu HaNavi he was to be supported by an almana, who had practically nothing left to eat! 

In addition, the order of the baking and eating are not parallel. In regards to the baking, Eliyahu HaNavi told the almana to bake him a cake first, and then for herself (17:13). In regards to the eating, the pasuk informs us that she was the first to eat the cake (17:16). 

The Malbim writes a tremendous yesod. “Hashem lo ya’aseh nais, im lo l’tzorech gadol”- Hashem will not make a miracle unless there is a great need. As long as the almana had food, she was not a candidate for a miracle. She only became eligible for a miracle when she had ABSOLUTELY nothing left. That was only at the brink of death by starvation. That explains why Hashem would make a miracle through an almana, and not a wealthy person who had storehouses of food. That also explains why the almana gave a portion to Eliyahu HaNavi first, so that there would no longer be enough cake for both herself and her son. Still, now that she was eligible for a miracle, why did she eat the cake first?  

When Eliyahu HaNavi first went into solitude, Hashem told him the ravens will bring him bread, and he will drink from a rain fed stream. Why could Eliyahu HaNavi not eat from a big shabbos challah that will never get used up? Or drink from a water bottle that will miraculously replenish? The Malbim explains “shefa ha’hashgachi yairaid al ha’adam k’fi hachanaso”-The bounty (shefa) of Providence will come down unto a person according to his preparations. If Eliyahu HaNavi declared there should be no rain for Klal Yisrael, then he also was no longer fit to receive bounty.  

Any bounty that was to come into the world could not come through Eliyahu HaNavi, because he declared there should be no rain. When the almana ate from the cake, the bounty began to flow. Now, Eliyahu HaNavi could be sustained from the blessing as well. The Malbim writes, “ki im niftach hatzinor, lo yisasaim od”- if the pipe of bounty is opened, it will not be closed again. 

Purim Connection 

Perhaps we can utilize the comments of Malbim and better understand the Purim miracle. We read that Queen Esther who got Achashvairosh to change his mind about killing the Jews. One may ask, why didn’t Hashem make the miracle through a group of powerful and wealthy Jewish political activists (“askanim”) from Agudas Yisrael who showed King Achashvairosh that killing the Jews was against his “best political interest.” 

Hashem Will Only Make a Miracle For a Great Need 

If we look for the person who was the most isolated and adversely affected by the Purim Story it was Queen Esther. She spent her life away from her family and nation, bound by marriage to a non-Jewish King! There was no one in a more difficult position then her. Her life, however, was protected in the palace because of her national anonymity. When she revealed to King Achashveirosh, “I am also a Jew- the deadly decree is also against me and my nation” Achashveirosh changed his mind about killing the Jews. In this role, she is similar to the almana in the story of Isha HaTzarfasis. Hashem provided the Purim miracle through Esther, who was in need of a tremendous miracle, and at the time she opened up to the king, she had NOTHING; only a miracle could save her. Indeed, once the bounty flowed miraculously for Queen Esther, the bounty flowed to the entire nation. 

David Hamelech wrote “Hoshiayni Elokim, ki va’u mayim ad nafesh.” Save me Hashem, for the waters have reached until the soul (Tehillim 69:2). May we be redeemed speedily in our days. 

© 2018 Rabbi Eliyahu Asher Prero is an alumnus of Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh and a Musmach of Yeshivas Chevron. He is currently a maggid shiur, a practicing mohel, and a financial coach for the Mesila Organization. He can be reached at 845-659-0359 or He appreciates, and responds to, feedback. 


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