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Oil and Wine

Oil and Wine

An inside-out festival

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Oil permeates the entire substance of a thing

Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 105:5

When wine enters, secret emerges

Talmud, Eruvin 65a

Oil is in. Oil shuns superficiality--you won’t find it riding a fad or angling for a photo opportunity. When oil comes in contact with something, it saturates it to the core, permeating it in its entirety.

When set aglow, oil is the master of understatement. Soundlessly it burns--not for the oil lamp the vulgar cackling of firewood or even the faint sizzle of candlewax. Its light does not burst through the door and bulldoze the darkness away; instead, it gently coaxes the gloom to shimmer with a spiritual luminescence.

Wine is a tabloid reporter. Wine barges past the security guard of mind to loosen the lips, spill the guts and turn the heart inside out. Wine smears the most intimate secrets across the front pages of life.

Chanukah is oil, Purim is wine.

Chanukah is the triumph of the Jewish soul. The Greeks had no designs on the Jew’s body; it was the soul of Israel they coveted, seeking to indoctrinate her mind with their philosophy and tint her spirit with their culture. The Jew fought not for the freedom of his material self but to liberate his spiritual identity from Hellenist domination.

Haman and company did not bother with such subtleties. They had one simple goal: the physical destruction of every Jew on the face of the earth. Purim remembers the salvation of the Jew’s bodily existence.

Chanukah is commemorated with oil. Chanukah celebrates the innerness of the Jewish soul, the essence which permeates and sanctifies every nook and cranny of the Jew’s life. Chanukah celebrates the secret glow of the spirit, which, rather than confronting the darkness, infiltrates it and transforms it from within.

On Purim we pour out the wine. Purim is a noisy party, a showy parade, a costumed extravaganza. Purim celebrates the fact that the Jew is more than a soul--he is a body as well. Purim celebrates the fact that our Jewishness is not only an internal spirituality but also a palpable reality; that it not only permeates our beings from within, but also spills out into the externalities of our material lives.

Yanki Tauber served as editor of Chabad.org
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