Dear Readers,

In the grocery stores where I live at this time of year, olive oil is practically jumping off the shelves, to be used in so many savory dishes. Whether you make traditional latkes or spruce them up with healthier versions (broccoli or zucchini latkes, anyone?) or whether you enjoy homemade chocolate doughnuts filled with custard or a store-bought variety, oil is an essential component, used in our food to remember the small cruse of olive oil in the Temple that miraculously burned for eight days. We use the olive oil, too, to light the flames of our own menorahs as we commemorate the Chanukah miracle.

Jewish customs have profound depth and are not haphazard. A deeper look at the properties of olive oil teaches us about ourselves and our relationships.

  1. To make olive oil, you need to crush ripe olives to get the purest oil.
  2. Oil is notoriously hard to remove since it penetrates deeply into whatever it touches. (Be careful not to spill any on your clothes!)
  3. Oil naturally keeps to itself and separates from other liquids. (If you’ve ever made a salad dressing with oil, you’ll know how hard it is to keep it mixed.)
  4. Oil always rises to the top, leaving the other liquids sinking below.

So how are we like oil?

  1. The mystics compare our soul to oil. It may take crushing circumstances for us to fully come in tune with the depths of our soul’s powers or calling.
  2. But when we do reveal that beautiful part within us, it can penetrate deeply and enrich whatever parts of our lives that it touches.
  3. The soul is always pristine. No matter what negativity we have been involved with, our soul remains a pure part of G‑d. No matter how badly we may have acted, we are still a child of G‑d able to shine our light, undiluted by any past experience.
  4. Allowing our soul to shine within us helps us to rise to the top to become the best person we can be, exposing our greatest potentials.

In our relationships with others, we are also like oil. How so?

  1. To forge a relationship and truly connect with another, we need to crush our ego and haughtiness, and open ourselves up to see the other’s perspective.
  2. When we no longer fear exposing our vulnerability, we can penetrate into another’s life and enrichen the lives we touch.
  3. To reach deep dimensions in relationships, we need to first be a wholesome individual. We cannot expect others to complete us or create our happiness if we haven’t worked on developing our inner selves.
  4. The strength of another is far greater than the sum total of two individuals. When we develop positive, heathy relationships, we can rise to the top, reaching beyond our limitations.

Wishing you a very Happy Chanukah!

Enjoy your delicious dishes and coming in tune with your deepest self!

Chana Weisberg
Editor, TJW