The economics of oil strangely mirror the nature of oil itself. On one hand, the political and geo-economic machinations which cause the rise and fall of oil prices are beyond the understanding of the average citizen. On the other hand, we all are strongly affected by the decisions of the powers that be who set the price of a barrel of oil. The price of oil affects energy costs, which in turn affect the cost of basically every product on the market.

This is similar to oil itself: its chemical makeup causes it to rise above other fluids, but also utterly permeates substances which it touches. Make a paper or food wet, and it will dry out after a short while. Pour oil on it, and it will remain oily for good. Remember the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill and the incredible damage it caused? New Orleans has long been dry from Hurricane Katrina, but Prince William Sound is still feeling the effect of the oil spill disaster.

The holiday of Chanukah is completely oil-oriented. The miracle involved the Greeks’ unsuccessful attempt to defile all the oil in the Holy Temple, and the miraculous jug of oil which burned for eight days. We celebrate by lighting menorahs—preferably with oil—and eating oily foods such as latkes and doughnuts. What is the inner connection between Chanukah and this non-miscible fluid which transcends yet permeates?

An understanding of the Greeks’ objective and the Maccabean victory will allow us to understand why oil is so symbolic of the war, and an appropriate way to celebrate our victory.

What is the connection between Chanukah and this fluid which transcends yet permeates?

As opposed to the story of Purim, when our oppressors wished to physically annihilate our people, the Greeks did not long for our demise. They “merely” wanted us to abandon our obstinate loyalty to our “outdated” mitzvot, and assimilate into the progressive Greek culture. (We apologize if this argument sounds familiar and all too contemporary . . . we’re just reporting the historical facts!)

There were a fistful of Jews who refused to discard the mitzvot in favor of Hellenism. We owe these heroic people a debt of gratitude: if not for them, our nation would today be as extinct as Hellenism and the ancient Greeks.

What exactly is the nature of these mitzvot which triggered this intense battle?

Mitzvot are the directives which emanate from G‑d. Needless to say, directives which originate from a spiritual infinite being can be understood by us physical finite beings as much as an earthworm can grasp E = mc2. Yet incredibly—and much to the ire of the ancient Greeks—these ultra-transcendent mitzvot permeate every detail of our mundane lives, which they seemingly should transcend. Before, after, and while eating; before, after, and while sleeping; before, after, and while involved in business—the mitzvot affect every area of life.

The merging of the highest levels of divinity with mundane everyday life, a seemingly impossible phenomenon, is made possible by the fact that—to use Kabbalistic lingo—G‑d transcends transcendency. He can transcend or permeate, or be both simultaneously. Just like oil!

While munching on tasty oily latkes, let us be thankful to the fledgling Maccabee army who risked their life for the oil. It is to their credit that 2,200 years later we still have the ability to oil our life with mitzvot, thus infusing our humdrum existence with unimaginable holiness.