Purifying The Oil VII
“A desirable treasure and oil endures in the abode of the wise, but the fool of a man swallows it up.” (Proverbs 21:20) “Treasure” refers to Torah, “Desirable” refers to the Prophets, and “Oil” refers to the Writings, all of which are in the abode of the wise, who can forfeit all by having an improper student who will swallow it all and use it inappropriately. (Midrash Tana’im, Devarim 37:9)
The Vilna Gaon offers an alternative explanation: “Treasure” refers to Awe of God, as the verse says, “Awe of God is a man’s treasure.” (Isaiah 33:6) Kings treasure that which is most rare, which is Awe of God, as the Sages teach (Berachot 33b), “Everything is in the hands of Heaven except for awe of Heaven.”
“Desirable” refers to all of Torah, as the verse says, “They are more desirable than gold.” (Psalms 19:11)
Clothes are the symbol of Midot, personal attributes, as the verse says, “Let your garments always be white.” (Ecclesiastes 9:8) Midot must constantly be refined and purified as oil, just as the Mitzvot supply the oil for the Torah’s light, so too, Midot supply the oil necessary for everything we do to shine.
I see the moment when the battle weary, victorious Chashmonaim became searchers for pure oil as a powerful moment of Midot refinement: A warrior is associated with uncontrolled passions – see Yefat To’ar – and yet, the Chashmonaim immediately switched back to Kohanim, the descendants of Aaron, the man of peace. The jar of sealed pure oil reflected their work of inner refinement.
In order to discover our jar of pure oil for Chanukah, we must use this time to choose one Midah on which to focus and strategically work to refine, direct and develop.