(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 2:1)Ein Ayah:
Shabbat is a totally holy day that is conducive to enjoyment and rest, and candle lighting adds peace and internal happiness. This is a good time to understand the truth-based success for body and spirit, which brings one eternal life and the tranquility enjoyed by the righteous during this fleeting life. This is in contrast to false success – material wealth, which most people chase without regard to the propriety of the means they use.
Oil is often used by Chazal to represent success (including Bava Kama 93a, Bava Batra 145b). A person can be represented by a wick trying to produce light with the help of oil. As long as one’s success is external and he does not absorb it efficiently, his heart will not be filled with happiness and he will not experience rest or an elevated life in its fullest sense. This is like a wick in oil that is not absorbed in a manner that gives light that brings the desired peace to the house. By demanding high quality light for Shabbat, we remind ourselves that we want success that impacts the individual properly, i.e., internally, as fitting for one who sets his path by the Torah’s true laws.
[We look for the identification of kik oil, starting with the seafarers’ opinion – a bird from the cities of the sea.] The cities of the sea are known for a low moral level and distance from Jewish connections (see Avoda Zara 17a; Gittin 11a). People travel there because they are good places to accumulate wealth. Thus these are places where a person is likely to have "success" that damages one’s spiritual status and connection to Torah. This is like oil that is poorly absorbed in a wick. A Jewish home should reject this, as it merits tranquility when based on the type of purity and modesty that are fostered by a beautifully lit Shabbat home. Seafarers, who know about ethical deterioration, identify kik as belonging to a bird of the cities of the sea.
Another problematic success, besides chasing after wealth, is success limited to one’s imagination. While a person may externally imagine that riches and wildness will make him happy, he internally realizes these matters’ hollowness and is internally sad with them. Grapes of the vine often represent happiness (see Shoftim 9:13). A cotton plant resembles a grapevine, explaining why cotton is called tzemer gefen (the wool of the vine). However, its produce does not provide internal happiness like grapes but covers a person externally. Therefore, cottonseed oil represents another element of success without internal impact.
The biggest sign of meaningless success is that which is utterly fleeting, which is also a sign that it lacks internal connection. Jonah’s kikayon, the tree that grew overnight only to similarly wither, conveys this idea (Yonah 4:10). Those who gain material success are like that. Even life in this world is in general like the kikayon. Real light and success connects to the sanctity of Shabbat. Its holy, happy light comes to a person who acted properly – not through the birds of the cities of the sea, cottonseed, or a kikayon. We want happiness that is a result of hard work, purity, and honesty. We want success that is used to help the poor, strengthen Torah scholars, and merit true internal happiness in a way that lasts well after the kikayon withers. We want oil that gives beautiful light on Shabbat and thus straightens one’s path all week long.