December 6, 2013

The Sacred Olive

December is the season of olive oil. And in Israel, we feel this on a spiritual and physical level.

Spiritually speaking, we all light our menorahs with olive oil. Wicks are placed in glass that is filled with thick, rich oil. The flames that are fed by the oil blazes create a long-lasting golden, warm light. Here in Israel, we try to place the menorahs on the street outside our homes to fulfill the mitzvah of publicizing the miracle of Chanukah.

December is also the season to replenish our supply of freshly pressed olive oil. The olives here were harvested in October and November. They were picked, sorted, then taken to the press where they were crushed.

Living in the north of Israel where there are an abundance of olive groves, we are able to purchase the most fresh, delicious olive oil there is. Tasting this oil, one cannot help but become a connoisseur; this year’s oil tastes like we are eating real olives with a slight picant side note.

Today we went to the Moshav Safsoufa at the foot of Mount Meiron and purchased a jerry can of oil. This is 17.5 liters of pure delight that will last us till next summer.

It is a privilege to buy directly from Simcha, who personally pressed the oil. I think about the countless bottles of oil stacked on supermarket shelves and consider the impersonal mass manufacturing, labeling, branding, packaging, marketing and transportation involved before the oil even reaches the store.  

And then I look at the cute little jerry can standing before me on a gravel driveway in front of an old stone house nestled in a tiny moshav at the base of a mountain. Such a small purchase makes me feel satisfied and complete.

Simcha, the olive guy, explains that it is made from the suri olive tree, is pressed in a place called Yogev press and is 100% organic. However, this oil surpasses organic. These trees were never watered by farmers, which means they have been untouched by man until the olives are actually picked.

There is a certain purity and simplicity in the fact that before me sits a product that has had little interference by man. And when we take man out of the equation, I always feel a distinct spiritual connection. 

In fact, the olive tree is a very special and miraculous plant. It can live for over 2,000 years and prefers a scorching hot, arid climate and poor soil. It is no mistake that it is considered sacred in many religions and has come to represent peace, purity, power and glory.

Last Wednesday, on the last night of Chanukah, I walked around the old city of Tsfat with my camera and watched the oil lamps glowing in the menorahs, flickering against the ancient stone. 

The flames have sputtered out for now and the spiritual aspect of Chanukah may be over, but I have a renewed appreciation of the jerry can of oil sitting on my kitchen floor.

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