Each year rabbis are faced with Passover questions revolving around food products that were virtually unknown to earlier authorities. Rather than peremptorily forbid the product in question – a response that is easy – rabbis with integrity engage in research and investigation. One such product that has been marketed in recent years is avocado oil. Avocados are tree-ripened fruit which, obviously, are not categorized as hametz, grain products that have begun to ferment by coming into contact with water for more than eighteen minutes. However, since hametz – translates as “leaven” – is forbidden in even the minutest quantity, an accurate assessment is possible only after investigating the process by which the product is made. If, in production, the foodstuff comes into contact with leaven, whether in the machinery of production or as an incidental additive, it is not kosher for Passover. Most authorities rule that if the process of making avocado oil is like the cold pressing of virgin olive oil (which is allowed on Passover), then avocado oil is allowed as well.
Aside from the kashrut of avocado oil is a marvelous message that might be “extracted” from its nature. Oil is a viscous fluid different from other liquids. As noted above, oil is the product of a process of crushing and squeezing a fruit or nut. In addition, oil is not absorbent, making it difficult to collect if spilled. Oil does not mix with other liquids and rises to the top of any liquid to which it is added.
Given these unique features, the last Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menahem Mendel Schneerson, observed that oil is comparable to the Jewish people. Like oil, the Jewish people has been squeezed and crushed by its enemies. Like oil, the Jewish people have spread throughout the world, spreading the message of the Torah wherever it goes. Just as oil remains apart from other liquids, the Jewish people has retained its distinct character and traditions, remaining true to its mission And, finally, the Jewish people rise above the mundane, elevating even worldly pursuits, like the oil that rises to the top of all other liquids. Even in Egyptian bondage, the Jewish people remained true to these properties, which led to our salvation.
Whether cooking with olive oil or avocado oil, the lesson of oil on Passover is as important as an ingredient in the menu.