Shlomo Ezagui

Oil, Humility, Light and Leadership

Levi Grossbaum

Hanukkah is all about oil: the oil in the potato latkes and the oil in doughnuts… more importantly, the oil that miraculously lasted eight days instead of only one. In Judaism, there is a fundamental teaching that we learn a lesson from every experience in our lives, especially when it comes to such an important holiday as Hanukkah.

Oil has a lot of seemingly contradictory qualities. On the one hand, oil is extracted by crushing and squeezing the olive. Oil penetrates everything. Oil does not mix with liquids and always rises to the surface.

This is the lesson. Oil is often a metaphor for wisdom because oil fuels light. The Bible says, “A fool walks in the dark, and a wise person shines with light.” Oil, wisdom, and light all go together, while darkness and foolishness go together.

Oil is produced by crushing the olive. When a person is crushed, he is humbled. Only humble people — people who have a place in their hearts for others and are sensitive to others, people who have empathy and compassion — produce the fuel for light and wisdom. That is why the word for wisdom in Hebrew, chochma, can also mean, “What am I?” — a sign of humility. True knowledge and understanding are acquired only through humility.

People will listen to someone when they have the quality of humility, which is the quality within oil, because they can sense their modesty and unassuming demeanor. Like oil, they will saturate all. A humble person has influence; he is an example, possessing the necessary qualities to become a leader.

An arrogant and self-centered person who believes that he is smart, who believes that everyone owes him, and who is full of himself chases God away; his ego is a source of darkness and foolishness. God says, “Me and him (an arrogant person) cannot dwell together.” An arrogant person obstructs his path to receiving and hearing. He places obstacles on his path toward acquiring knowledge.

Oil rises naturally to the surface. The only way someone can acquire wisdom is when they live with the quality of humility. They do not think they know it all. They appreciate that everyone has something unique to contribute to the universe, so they learn from everyone. A humble person knows he must continuously learn; he looks out for all the lessons he can acquire daily, and because of that, he not only expands his knowledge, but he learns to respect everyone and everything around him.

That is why we “acknowledge and praise His great name on Hanukkah.” Humble people naturally express gratitude for all the good they have in life. They recognize the miracles God always bestows upon them and take nothing for granted. People who are grateful for all they have and know to count their blessings — and there are so many blessings in their lives — are happier.

Chapter 32

About the Author
Rabbi Shlomo Ezagui is an author and lecturer. "A Spiritual Soul Book" ( & "Maimonides Advice for the 21st Century" ( In 1987, Rabbi Ezagui opened the first Chabad Center in Palm Beach County, Florida, and the first Orthodox Synagogue on the island of Palm Beach, Florida.
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