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Cracked Vessels

Cracked Vessels


An old Chinese woman had two water cans which were attached to a yoke. Each day she put the yoke over her shoulders and went down to the river, filled the cans, and walked back to her modest hut. The water can on the right side of the yoke was fine and sturdy; when she arrived home it was always full. But the can on the left had a crack in it. By the time the woman arrived home, half the water was usually gone.

My sister's handicapped child could not walk, talk, hold his head up, or control any limb of his body.

The water can always felt inferior to his partner. He was ashamed that he was cracked and wasn't pulling his weight. One day he turned to the woman and apologized for being defective. The woman smiled gently and said, "Did you think I didn't know that you had a crack, and water dripped from you? Look at the path from the river to my hut. Do you see all the beautiful flowers that are growing on the one side of the path? Those are the flowers that I planted there, that you watered every day as I walked home from the river."

My sister had a severely handicapped child, a beautiful boy who could not walk, talk, hold his head up, control any limb of his body. But Yankie could smile and he could laugh. He radiated peace, tranquility, and happiness; because his body was merely a shadow of a body, it could not conceal the holy soul that occupied it. The purity of his soul shone through his eyes and had a powerful effect on everyone who knew him. He inspired love. He inspired people to devote themselves to helping others. And he taught everyone to look beyond the façade of a body and to see the Divine soul that is the essence of the person.

Chaya Sarah Silberberg serves as the rebbetzin of the Bais Chabad Torah Center in West Bloomfield, Michigan, since 1975. She also counsels, lectures, writes, and responds for’s Ask the Rabbi service.
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Discussion (24)
February 16, 2017
I am in middle of drying my eyes
February 14, 2017
What a beautiful story. Thank you!
Telmo Cabrita Martins
December 26, 2016
October 19, 2014
A child
June 24, 2014
thank you
Beautiful story
December 30, 2013
to the objectifying a person.
Why are you so upset about the story? I almost can feel your anger! It just comes through your writing. No one is turning a person into an object. The story is a parable, metaphor, symbol. Don't you ever see a beautiful object that somehow reminds you of a person that you love, don't you ever see a flower, and think of of a child.
Esther Sternberg
Staten Island
August 8, 2013
A "romantic" notion?
The story, far from being a "romantic" notion of those we consider not whole, shows us how each gives and receives. The can received water, it gave of its life force differently from the other can. HaShem fills us to the extent we allow, and we are blessed to receive and then give, of Him. I've worked with little children who are autistic and young children with disabilities. My own daughter is "cracked." Yet, she gives, just differently. This story reminds me of a quote attributed to none other than Groucho Marx who said: "Blessed are the cracked, for they shall let in the light." And really, who among us isn't "cracked"?
New Jersey
July 16, 2013
Every human that Hashem created has value in this world. We are his chosen people, and are an example for the rest of the world, not as favorites, but as teachers. A broken imperfect vessel that has overcome adversity is a much better teacher to those who are also broken. It gives one the ability to see suffering and pain in a new light, and therefore able to reach those who cannot believe that they too can be healed and live useful lives, and look to the future with hope. As one who has been broken, suffering constant pain and remembering these very important lessons, this story is pure inspiration and a reminder of my mission. Thank you!
Yafa Plaut-Cappon
Sacramento, California
June 10, 2013
the broken boy
I had a brother born 49 years ago that was Yankie(his name was shlomo) I was 2 at the time ..When he was born there wasn't the fan fare that goes along with a "normal child".,just a parade of doctors tellling my mom he was so broken and couldn't be fixed. I remember praying every night to Hashem to make my brother better.Then I saw the wonderful way he would light up a room with just his smile.I also saw first hand saw the change Shlomo(Steven) would bring to the people he came in contact with-a much level of compasion and understanding.Steven left this world at nineteen -and I truely feel the world is a better place because he was here.He was true innocence-now his soul is free .I learned alot from someone who never could utter one word!
Binae Karpo
March 15, 2013
I don't understand this story.
New York