An important part of the Chanukkah kitchen are the foods fried in oil, which remind us of the Chanukkah miracle: the small amount of oil that miraculously burned for 8 days. The Rebbe’s explanation adds a twist to this tradition:
– One of the differences between Chanukah and other festivals is that on other festivals, there is an obligation to celebrate with festive meals which include bread, water, meat, and wine. In contrast, on Chanukah, there is no obligation to celebrate with festive meals; and the meals one serves are optional in nature.
… All of these foods are used as metaphors for the Torah. There are, however, differences between them.
Water and bread are the staples of our everyday existence.
In contrast, wine is not a daily necessity, it is used to contribute an element of pleasure to our existence as it is written, “Wine makes glad man and G‑d.” Oil is not required for our day to day existence. It is never served as a food in its own right. Rather, it is used in minute qualities to add flavor to other foods. Thus it is associated with the quality of pleasure.
Bread and water are metaphors for Nigleh, the revealed dimensions of Torah law, the concepts of Torah which are necessary for our people to know to observe the mitzvos properly. Like bread and water, this knowledge is necessary for our people’s existence. In contrast, wine and oil are metaphors for Pnimiyus HaTorah. For like these two substances, the study of Pnimiyus HaTorah adds pleasure and vitality to our observance of the Torah and its mitzvos.
In particular, there is a difference between oil and wine. For wine is drunken as a beverage in its own right, while oil is not. Also, there are times, Shabbos and festivals, when wine is required for Kiddush. Similarly, in regard to the symbolic meaning of the two. Wine refers to those dimensions of the Torah’s secrets that are close to revelation and can be perceived by a sensitive eye.
In contrast, oil refers to the deepest secrets of the Torah, those that transcend revelation.
This reflects the significance of Chanukah, that it is associated with these deeper levels of the Torah…
From the Rebbe’s talk on Parashat “Miketz” (5752).