Ra’anana Community Kollel
Rabbi Dovid Horwitz
In discussing the ideal location to kindle the Chanukah lights, the Gemara mentions three locations in order of preference.
The ideal place to light is outside of one’s front door facing the public thoroughfare so that the passersby will gaze upon the lights and be reminded of the miracle which we commemorate on Chanukah.
In the event that one’s door does not lead directly into the public domain, such as when one lives on the second floor of an apartment building, then the proper place to light is in the window facing the street, as people will be able to see the lights as they are walking in the street.
If this is not an option because one has no window that faces the public domain, or he has a window but it is dangerous for him to place his candles there due to the anti-Jewish elements within the city, he should place his menorah on the table inside the house in order to publicize the miracle to his family members.
It is interesting to note that, according to this ruling, for one who has an entrance which directly borders the public thoroughfare lighting outside the house is the preferred method even though his family members will not see the lights from within the house. In such an instance, the Sages a placed greater emphasis on publicizing the miracle to the masses strolling outside than to the family members inside.
If so, we must ask ourselves why, in today’s age of relative peace and tranquility, most Jews continue to light inside the house without even contemplating lighting outside as is clearly stated in the halachah. The Aruch Hashulchan justifies this custom by claiming that as the inclement weather conditions of Kislev make it impossible to light outside unless a special glass box is purchased to protect the Chanukah candles from the elements, in such a case, the Sages did not require a person to inconvenience himself to acquire such a box. Additionally, the lights would be somewhat obscured within the glass and people would fail to realize that they are Chanukah lights.
Both of these reasons are less applicable in today’s age. Glass boxes are readily available for purchase and they do not take away in the slightest, the beauty of the Chanukah lights. Indeed, the boxes of today often beautify the lights burning inside, as there are often excerpts of the liturgy embossed on the glass.
Many poskim, especially in Eretz Yisrael where there is nothing to fear when placing one’s menorah outside, encourage and extol us to return to fulfilling this mitzvah in the way in which the Sages originally intended it by lighting the menorah outside in the public domain. Although, as was mentioned above, there is some basis for the custom of lighting inside, there is an ideology that lays within Chanukah to beautify the mitzvah beyond the bounds of what is normally acceptable.
In the merit of fulfilling the mitzvah of Chanukah lights in the most beautiful and way possible, may we merit to see the restoration of the Beit Hamikdash, the Holy Temple, speedily in our days.