Recently I received a bulletin from a Congregation where a friend of mine is the Rabbi. It contained a beautiful and inspiring story which I would like to share with you today. In my opinion, it gives insight into today’s Torah reading, and the moral of the story conveys some sound advise for many parents who are troubled by their children’s not meeting their expectations.

An elderly woman had two large pots that hung on the ends of a pole which she carried across her neck when she went to draw water from the stream down the road from her house.

One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half-full.

For a full two years this went on daily, with the woman bringing home only one and a half pots of water.

Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it could only do half of what it had been made to do.

After two years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, it spoke to the woman one day by the stream. “I am ashamed of myself, because the crack in my side causes water to leak out of all the way back to your house.”

The old woman smiled, “Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back you water them.”

“For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without your being just the way you are, the path would lack this beauty.”

This, I believe, can be a parable to understand the message G‑d’s angel conveyed to Hagar. On the surface we read about Yishmael’s need for some water to quench his thirst. His mother, Hagar was unable to provide it, so her prognosis was that his death was imminent. Therefore, she abandoned any hope for his survival and sat down to cry.

On a more profound level, perhaps she was heartbroken not only over his physical wellbeing, but also his spiritual state. Having dwelled in the home of Avraham and Sarah, she had witnessed how Yitzchok’s refinement contrasted with her son’s chaotic behavior and debasement. Seeing no future for him, she declared him ‘good for nothing’ and gave up on him.

The angel told her “Kumi — Arise — to the challenge. Every child is good for something. Instead of knocking him down and abandoning him for not meeting your expectations — se’ee et hana’ar — lift up your youth — don’t belittle him. Don’t ridicule him. Don’t tell him ‘You’re no good.’ Lift him up! Reach out to him with love and encouraging words.”

The angel then said to her, “vehachaziki et yadeich bo — grasp your hand upon him — support him! Help him reach his potential ki l’go gadol asimenu — for I will make a great nation of him. Yes,” the angel said, “everyone is good for something. Everyone can be a great success.”

The old lady in our story had a cracked pot. It couldn’t meet her expectations of providing the water she needed, but she didn’t discard it. She wisely worked with its deficiency and through it she produced beautiful flowers.

The message for parents is the following: Even if you observe a flaw in your children, don’t become disillusioned and it doesn’t spell devastation. They may not have delivered the results you had in mind for them, but with warmth, support and affection, you can ensure that they will prove that like everyone else they have their potential. They are good for something and will succeed immensely in that something.

Dear friends, my message today is not only in regard to children.

Each of us has our own unique flaw. But it’s up to us to utilize the cracks and flaws to our benefit and make them a rewarding factor in our life.

You’ve just got to take each person for who they are and reveal each person’s concealed good.