Olive Enlightenment
from Cooking for the King, the Chanukah Edition

Fruit ripens and then we eat it, right?

Not always. The ripe olive is hard, bitter and inedible. The olives in the jar we bring home from the store have undergone weeks immersed in a brining solution, a process essential to bringing out the unique taste and texture of the particular variety of olive.

The Recipe for Character Development

Similarly, the Jew is not a finished product at birth. We spend years immersed in an environment of home and school that nurtures our unique spiritual qualities. Then, when we go out into the world our true Jewish character has been developed; we know who we are and what is our purpose.

The olive tree as well as its fruit, reveals a profound message. It takes the olive tree three to four generations of production to reach full maturity. Similarly, we owe our strength to the fruits of the generations that came before us. We are sustained by their roots which struggled in the rocky terrain of our history. Their influence remains with us centuries later like olive tree, which can live to be 1000 years old--still producing new shoots and bearing fruit.                             

Energy Source of the World

Even the juice, the oil hidden in the olive, enlightens us with a message about ourselves and our mission as a holy people. When the Beis HaMikdash stood, olive oil was the prize energy source of the world. Many ancient coins found in Israel feature olive trees, depicting the major role olive oil played in our economy.

Today, oil of a different sort dominates the world's economy. Tiny Israel is surrounded by huge petroleum oil-producing countries, which threaten to extinguish the light of the Jewish People.

Eventually, olive tree cultivation spread, its fruit and oil became available throughout the world. We also find ourselves planted and flourishing in every corner of the globe. But we know our place of origin, our native home has always been the Land of Israel.

Our enemies will eventually be vanquished, until then what we have to do is to tap into the true energy source of Israel, our attachment to the Torah and mitzvos.

Olive Oil Health Benefits

This prized fruit produces an eternal elixir of life in the physical world as well. Olive oil's benefits are so well accepted that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows producers to place a heart-health claim on their labels.

The beneficial health effects are due to its high content of both monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidative substances. Studies have shown that olive oil offers protection against heart disease by controlling LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels while raising HDL ("good") cholesterol levels.

Olive oil is very well tolerated by the stomach. In fact, its protective function has a beneficial effect on ulcers and gastritis. Olive oil activates the secretion of bile and pancreatic hormones and consequently, lowers the incidence of gallstone formation. Studies show that replacing the fat in our diets with it may even help prevent breast cancer, ovarian cancer and colon cancer.

It's no wonder that Hashem placed these life enhancing benefits for our guf, our bodies, in the very fruit that gives us so many messages about the proper, healthful life for the Jewish neshama.

Recipes with Olives & Olive Oil