Water, Wine and Oil

The Torah has been compared to various things, including water, wine and oil. All these comparisons are not poetic devices but related to practical principles. In our context, water, which is essential to life, signifies the Torah as a whole. Wine and oil are liquids which are contained and concealed within grapes and olives respectively, thus signifying the 'concealed part of the Torah,' the soul of the Torah.

The Talmud notes that the numerical value of yayin(wine) is the same as that of sod(secret;mystery).  

Oil, in turn gives life and light to the world, just as the soul to the body.

Oil signifies distilled essence. This renders it distinct and separate from everything on the one hand, while also pervading everything on the other. Thus oil does not mix with other liquids: even when mixed with them, it rises to the surface above them.

At the same time, while other liquids remain static and will not spread about, oil does spread itself throughout, penetrating and pervading everything. 

This nature of oil is also the nature of pnimiyut haTorah, the soul and mystical dimension of Torah – shamnah shel Torah, the 'oil of the Torah.' For it, too, is the essence, the essence of Torah: distinct and separate on the one hand, yet pervasive and penetrating on the other. This is of quite practical consequence...

...It is the 'oil of Torah' that penetrates, permeates and illuminates one's whole being, and transforms man and Torah into a singular entity. Every action, therefore, becomes a vital reality. This consciousness is tested and verified by the concrete realization of the premise that the purpose of wisdom is that it inspire and lead to an application of teshuvah (return to our Divine roots) and ma'asim tovim (the actual practice of good deeds). 

The sterile type of life and 'scholarship' of “the donkey loaded with books,” unfortunately, is quite symptomatic of the modern age and its method of alleged rational inquiry, of 'logical positivism' and its atomizing games of linguistic analysis.

The mystical dimension forcefully counters this and bears a pervasive message of special relevance to modern man. With this message we are able to extricate ourselves from the contemporary mind- and soul-polluting forces that threaten to stifle us, and to find ourselves.

For it is the tzinor, the conduit connecting us to ultimate reality.

It is the stimulant causing “deep to call unto deep” - the profound depth of man's soul calling unto the profound depth of the Universal Soul to find and absorb itself therein.

Thus it brings forth and establishes the ultimate ideal of unity, of oneness, on all levels.

- Jacob I Schochet, “The Mystical Tradition”