The Shema Prayer (Hear o’ Israel the Lord is God and God is One) is considered Judaism’s declaration of faith in God. Deuteronomy 7:13, quoted from Chabad.org, reads “And He will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your soil, your grain, your wine, and your oil, the offspring of your cattle and the choice of your flocks, in the land which He swore to your forefathers to give you”.

Many of these blessings seem to have a link to Temple service, grain for the challah, oil for the Menorah and for anointing the Kohanim/Priests, wine for Kiddush, cattle for the sacrifices, etc. The blessings also seem to have a link to Israel as a nation including populating the land and feeding it. The one element I specifically question is the oil. What is the signifance of oil in terms of consumption or Temple service that it is a blessing? Wouldn’t water be symbolically appropriate for purifying the Kohanim instead of oil? In a land “flowing with milk and honey” there has to be bees to produce that abundance of honey and if there are bees, there is bees wax that can be used to light the Temple menorah. Why is oil so essential that it is considered a blessing for the masses?

  • It seems to have been a mainstay of cooking. See kings 1:17 (and cf 2:4)
    – Double AA
    Dec 2 '18 at 3:19
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    I don't understand what the first sentence of your post has to do with rest of it. Is it that you think that that verse is in the Sh'ma prayer? It's not. (Also note that, at least according to the typical understanding of "flowing with milk and honey", that phrase refers not to bees' honey but to fruit juice/honey. But, yes, bees' honey was also used by people in ancient times.)
    – msh210
    Dec 2 '18 at 3:46
  • @msh210 Maybe it is an Art Scroll thing. In their Hebre-English siddurs—including the RCA Edition—they more than imply the scripture I quoted is physically part of a unified Shema Prayer. They do this by using directions for “reading the first/second/third passage”. My quoted verse is from what Art Scroll identifies as the “second passage”. In other words, they do not distinguish the three passages immediately proceeding “Hear O’ Israel” as separate from the Shema. As far as the honey issue, do you have a source for it not being made by bees but from fruit?
    – JJLL
    Dec 2 '18 at 15:54
  • @DoubleAA. I understand the importance of all the commodities mentioned in the scripture both in terms of every day Israelite life and Temple Service. Am I incorrectly associating the promised blessings of everyday life with Temple Service which seems to depend on those very same blessings? The blessings make sense but I am still struggling with why OIL seems to be of such importance that scripture considers IT a blessing.
    – JJLL
    Dec 2 '18 at 16:33
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    Oil, wine and flour were offered with just about every animal (Numbers 15)
    – Double AA
    Dec 2 '18 at 16:42

This paragraph of the Shema is a reminder of the "blessing and the curse" put forth in Parasha Haazinu. https://www.sefaria.org/topics/Parshat%20Haazinu?lang=bi

Grain, cattle, fruit, grapes / wine and olives / olive oil were the mainstays of ancient Israel's economy. Hashem offers to bless His People financially if they keep to his ways, and famine, pestilence, and reliance on loans from resident foreigners if they don't keep His ways. That's an essential part of the Covenant. We say this as part of the Shema on a daily basis so as not to forget.

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