Parshat Vayeira begins with Avraham’s extravagant display of Hachnasat Orchim to three men who appear at his doorstep. In this famous story, Avraham spares no expense in his kindness towards these guests. A lesser-known story however, is that of Vayeira’s Haftarah, located in Melachim Bet. In the Haftarah, the Navi Elisha supplies assistance and generosity to two women in two intriguing situations.
The first occurrence concerns a widow whose late husband was one of the prophets whom Achav and Izevel, an evil king and queen of Malchut Yisrael, attempted to eradicate. This widow runs and cries out to Elisha: “Avdecha Ishi Meit…VeHaNosheh Ba Lakachat Et Shenai Yeladai Lo LaAvadim,” “Your servant, my husband has died…but now the creditor has come to take my two sons to be his slaves” (Melachim II 4:1).
Apparently, as many Mefarshim note, her husband was Ovadiah HaNavi, who spent his entire fortune supporting and hiding the Nevi’ei HaEmet, the true prophets, whom Achav and Izevel so desperately tried to wipe out. A creditor, supposedly Yehoram ben Achav, previously arrived at the widow’s house demanding payment of Ovadiah’s debts, and when she could not reimburse him, he threatened to enslave her two children as payment instead.
The Avnei Ezel raises an obvious question: why does this prophet’s wife mention here that her husband died if he actually passed away many months earlier? The Avnei Ezel gives a simple answer: before his sons were taken away, Ovadiah’s Neshamah had not yet passed completely from Olam HaZeh. In fact, the widow had the complete intention of finishing the education of her sons in the path of Ovadiah, and helping them become God-fearing Jews as their esteemed father was. Until that point, Ovadiah’s soul still remained, sustained by his sons’ wisdom and Torah knowledge. This is not a foreign concept to Judaism; indeed, the Gemara in Bava Batra (116a) teaches, “All who raise their sons in their ways live on forever as if they had never died.” Thus, now that Yehoram has snatched Ovadiah’s lifeline away from his wife, she cries out to Elisha that her husband has just died and that she therefore needs Elisha’s assistance even more.
Just as Ovadiah’s sons were able to become his lifeline by carrying on his legacy, we, too, should realize our place in this world as maintainers of the legacy of our ancestors through our Torah, actions, and Yirat Shamayim.