Vayeishev/Chanukah: Crude Oil vs. Olive Oil



The Middle East is synonymous with oil. The wealth of many a Middle Eastern country comes from petroleum, its unrefined crude oil that is found beneath the Arabian sands, and its refined petroleum products above ground. As has been well documented, this oil wealth is one of the primary sources for financing terrorism the world over.

Iran uses its oil to finance Hezbollah, while ISIS uses its captured oil wells to generate upwards of an estimated $100 million annually. That’s nothing compared to Saudi Arabia’s estimated annual oil revenue of somewhere around $200 billion, but $100 million is a heck of a lot of money to fall into terrorist hands. A lot of mayhem and tragedy can be created with those amount of funds.

Imagine if those hundreds of millions of dollars went to civil services, education, fighting famine and disease – to bettering the human condition through creating light, peace and harmony. Do you know how many menorahs could be fueled by that kind of money and that amount of oil? Perhaps, with Chanukah upon us, an oil-centric festival if there ever was one, there is a way we Jews could inspire the world in general, and the Arab/Muslim oil-rich world in particular, to use its energy and resources to light up the world, not destroy it.

As the nations of the world and their leaders discuss global energy concerns this week in Paris, perhaps an episode from our Torah portion can teach us and the world how to turn the toxins of crude oil into refined perfumes and aromatic spices.


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