When professional baseball players start slumping, it's bad news. They can't hit, they get depressed, and pretty soon, they’re benched.

When it happens to the best in the sport, we hear about how they're “trusting their mechanics” even if it's not delivering results. “Trust the process” they say, “and it'll eventually bring the results.” It’s a fair argument: After all, the mechanics are still there, it's just a matter of time until they break out.

And it usually works.

You see, a player whose swing is off is hopeful and even confident that whatever he’s doing will eventually bring the results he’s looking for. Day after day, he accumulates empty at-bats, yet his coach (the type that inspires confidence) believes in him and tells him, “Keep doing what you’re doing. Any day now, you’ll make sweet contact and that ball will pop right off your bat.”

He’s a professional, after all. He has it in him, and there’s no reason to assume he’s magically lost his touch. It’ll come, it’s just a matter of time. There are countless stories to prove it.

This is a wonderful metaphor for life.

Collect Empty Jugs

In this week’s haftarah, we read of a distraught woman who turns to the prophet Elisha crying that her husband died and she’s destitute. Worse still, creditors are threatening to kidnap her children as collateral and she doesn't know what to do.

The prophet tells her to collect empty pitchers and fill them with the one small jug of oil that she does have. Miraculously, the oil continues pouring until all the empty containers fill up. She now has a valuable resource, and everyone's happy.

And he said, “Borrow vessels for yourself from outside, from all your neighbors; do not borrow only a few empty vessels. And you shall come and close the door about yourself and about your sons, and you shall pour upon all these vessels; and the full one you shall carry away.”1

When Your Fire is Lost

The Alter Rebbe sees this as a metaphor for a person who used to have a “fire” (the Hebrew word for “my husband” can also be read “my fire” “אישי”), but now it's dead.

You know exactly what that’s like. Don’t you remember when you were young, passionate, and idealistic? Who doesn’t recall those early days when you first started exploring your Judaism and everything was fascinating and oh-so-wondrous? Every new ritual, every new teaching was exhilarating and refreshing; you simply couldn’t get enough of it.

Don’t you remember when you were young and naïve, and your marriage “sparkled?” People talked about how you were so in love, and you felt as if you had discovered the best thing since sliced bread (or perhaps even better)? Your relationship was alive, and every time you looked at your spouse, you couldn’t help but think how lucky you were and how much richer your life had become.

Or how about the early days of your career? Each time you entered the office, every time you got into your truck to start the day, you felt like you were changing the world. You spun magic, and people adored your skills, services, or management.

But then you got older, life roughed you up a bit, and now you're “dead.” Religion is boring, your marriage is monotonous, and your job is a black hole. It’s not bad per se, it’s just dead. You drag your feet around and scoff at all those young, naïve puppies who think they’re making a difference. “Been there, done that, son. It’s all downhill now.”

What to do? How do you drag yourself out of the abyss?

“Gather empty containers, and let them be filled with the little bit of oil you do have.”

Trust the Mechanics

Like the slumping player, you must trust your “mechanics.” You really do have it. You really are someone excited about praying and keeping Shabbat. You really do have a passionate marriage and love your spouse deeply. You really are changing the world by fixing broken sinks. You gotta believe it.

Ah, but it's not producing results? You're still spacing out while you pray, still fighting with your wife, and you still hate the sight of leaking pipes?

Keep at it. Trust the process. Keep adding those containers—I don't care if they're empty; just keep piling zeros on the scoreboard. Eventually, you're gonna break out. You're on the cusp. If you stick with the process and believe in yourself, the oil will come spilling out with abundance.

Keep praying, trying to put intention into what you’re saying. Keep your eyes closed and stick to your regular Shabbat candle-lighting routine, even though you no longer feel that the heavens are opening.

Keep bringing flowers home for the weekend, and saying things like, “I see something’s bothering you, would you like to talk about it right now, or should we dedicate some time later tonight to discuss it in earnest?” You don’t mean it? Say it anyway (and do it, too!).

Go to work, and fix yet another broken sink. Remind yourself that an entire family is now happy that they can eat with clean dishes again. You don’t care anymore? All those grumpy clients burned you out? You’re too cynical to believe it anymore? Say it to yourself anyway, and do whatever it takes to convince yourself that somehow, somewhere, you still believe it.

Eventually, you'll hit a home run.2