Olive Oil from the Menorah gives beautiful light and tons of allegory – Hanukkah

Introduction to Olives and Olive Oil.

Olive oil is a substance that is centrally connected with the Jewish people and the land of Israel.

The Torah itself is compared to oil. Just as oil pleasantly anoints the body and head so it is with the words of Torah. (Shir Hashirim Raba parsha 1)

Many Different Olive Oils

Olive Oil has been so central to life in Israel for thousands of years that the Torah names many different kinds of olive oils. These range from pure, clear olive oil for lighting the Menorah in the Bet Hamikdash  to thick jells that were engineered by apothecaries and blended with exotic spices. The Pure, clear Olive oil was the oil that the Maccabees miraculously found that lasted for 8 nights, even though it should have lasted for a single night.

The Bet Hamikdash ceremonies had at least three different kinds of olive oil. Pure oil from the first drop that is squeezed from the olive was used for lighting the Menorah. It is this oil that is famous in the Chanukah miracle. The other grades of Oil were mixed with sacrifices and a jell kind of oil for anointing Kohanim and Utensils.  (See Shemot 25 – 6)

Olive Oil has the most pleasant light

The light of olive oil is generally preferred for its pure, steady and gentle light. The Mishna states that one should light Shabbat candles strictly with olive oil. This can be a source of blessing and well-being.


In biblical Israel olive oil was a basic commodity. Lack of olive oil was associated with suffering and poverty. Yishayahu states in his opening prophecy, “From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and festering sores: they have not been pressed, neither bound up, neither mollified with oil. (Yishayahu 1 – 6)

Jewish People are compared to the Olive

Our Rabbis of Blessed Memory have stated that the people of Israel are compared to an olive in two different ways. An olive tree does not shed its leaves in summer or winter. Similarly, The people of Israel shall never disappear, not in this world and not in the world to come. Additionally, an olive will only render its oil under a tremendous weight so it is that the people of Israel only repent through trials and tribulations.

Symbol of Peace and Positive Outcomes

Additionally, The Dove returned to Noah in his ark with an olive branch. (Bereshit 8 – 11). Therefore the Dove with an Olive branch in its beak  is seen as a harbinger of positive news and good stuff to come.

Isaac Blessing Jacob - Nicolas-Guy Brenet
Isaac Blessing Jacob – Nicolas-Guy Brenet

Yitzchak Avinu gave a blessing of fertility to Yaakov Avinu by saying, “May God give you of the dew of heaven and the oil of the earth.” (Bereshit 27,28)

That is to say that Yaakov should be given the fat of the land.

Healthy and intelligent children are compared to an Olive Tree.

תהלים פרק קכח פסוק ג
אֶשְׁתְּךָ֤׀ כְּגֶ֥פֶן פֹּרִיָּה֘ בְּיַרְכְּתֵ֪י בֵ֫יתֶ֥ךָ בָּ֭נֶיךָ כִּשְׁתִלֵ֣י זֵיתִ֑ים סָ֝בִ֗יב לְשֻׁלְחָנֶֽךָ:

Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine, in the innermost parts of thy house; thy children like olive plants, round about thy table.

Ibn Ezra explains this pasuk: that your children will stand with strength and not whither, like olive leaves that are always green. Alsheich adds that your children will give light to all with abilities to teach.

Metzudot Tzion say that the allegory of your children being like Olive Trees is that they stand with beauty like an olive tree.

Dreams about Olives and Olive Oil

תלמוד בבלי מסכת ברכות פרק ט – הרואה [המתחיל בדף נז עמוד א]
הרואה זיתים בחלום, זוטרי – פרי ורבי וקאי עסקיה כזיתים, והני מילי – פרי, אבל אילני – הויין ליה בנים מרובין, שנאמר בניך כשתלי זיתים וגו’. איכא דאמרי: הרואה זית בחלום – שם טוב יוצא לו, שנאמר זית רענן יפה פרי תאר קרא ה’ שמך. הרואה שמן זית בחלום – יצפה למאור תורה, שנאמר ויקחו אליך שמן זית זך.

If one sees olives in a dream, if they are little ones his business will go on fructifying and increasing like an olive. This is if he sees the fruit; but if he sees the tree he will have many sons, as it says: Thy children like olive plants, round about thy table.17  Some say that if one sees an olive in his dream he will acquire a good name, as it says, The Lord called thy name a leafy olive-tree, fair and goodly fruit.23  If one sees olive oil in a dream, he may hope for the light of the Torah, as it says, That they bring unto thee pure olive oil beaten for the light.

Olives in dreams of the wicked

תלמוד בבלי מסכת ברכות דף נו עמוד ב
אמר ליה ההוא מינא לרבי ישמעאל: ראיתי שאני משקה שמן לזיתים, אמר ליה: בא על אמו.

A certain Min said to R. Ishmael: I saw myself [in a dream] pouring oil into olives. He replied: [This man]4  has come unto his mother.

Health of Olive Oil – Memory

A “Mediterranean Diet” consists of many healthy items including olive oil, fish, beans and vegetables. This diet is known to reduce heart disease.

Consuming Olives the fruit vs Olive Oil

תלמוד בבלי מסכת הוריות דף יג עמוד ב
רב פפא אמר: אפילו שופתא מרא גייצי. ת”ר, חמשה דברים משכחים את הלימוד: האוכל ממה שאוכל עכבר וממה שאוכל חתול, והאוכל לב של בהמה, והרגיל בזיתים, והשותה מים של שיורי רחיצה, והרוחץ רגליו זו על גבי זו; ויש אומרים: אף המניח כליו תחת מראשותיו. חמשה דברים משיבים את הלימוד: פת פחמין וכל שכן פחמין עצמן, והאוכל ביצה מגולגלת בלא מלח, והרגיל בשמן זית, והרגיל ביין ובשמים, והשותה מים של שיורי עיסה; ויש אומרים: אף הטובל אצבעו במלח ואוכל. הרגיל בשמן זית. מסייע ליה לרבי יוחנן, דאמר רבי יוחנן: כשם שהזית משכח לימוד של שבעים שנה, כך שמן זית משיב לימוד של שבעים שנה. והרגיל ביין ובשמים. מסייע ליה לרבא, דאמר רבא: חמרא וריחני פקחין.

Our Rabbis taught: Five things make one forget one’s studies: Eating1  something from which a mouse or a cat has eaten, eating1  the heart of a beast, frequent consumption2  of olives, drinking3  the remains of water that was used for washing, and washing4  one’s feet one above the other. Others say: He also who puts his clothes under his head [forgets his studies].

Five things restore one’s learning:5  Wheaten bread and much more so wheat6  itself, eating1  a roasted7  egg without salt, frequent consumption8  of olive oil, frequent indulgence in wine and spices, and the drinking3  of water that has remained from kneading. Others say: Dipping one’s finger in salt and eating is also included.

‘Frequent consumption of olive-oil’. This corroborates the view of R. Johanan who said: As the olive causes one to forget seventy years of study, so does olive oil restore seventy years of study.

‘Frequent indulgence in wine and spices’. This corroborates the view of Raba who said: Wine and spices have made me wise.