December 5, 2017
Rabbi H. Greenberg in #1096, Chanuka, Parsha Thought


The Talmud says that one should light the Menorah in the exterior doorway of a dwelling. The Talmud adds that it should be placed on the left side of the entrance, opposite the Mezuzah fixed on the right side of the doorway.

This custom changed, according to many sources, because of the danger posed by the enemies of the Jews and conditions in cold climates.

As a result, two customs emerged: The first is to kindle the Menorah near our windows, so that the Chanukah light publicizes the miracle to those who are outside.

The second custom, adopted by many Chassidim, including Chabad, is to place it on the left side of a doorway inside the house, also opposite the interior Mezuzah that is placed on every doorway (with a few exceptions).

However, this second custom – lighting the Menorah inside – is problematic. If the goal of Chanukah is to publicize the miracle, placing the Menorah in a place conspicuous from the outside would be the preferred way of fulfilling this Mitzvah, which would have taken precedence over placing it opposite a Mezuzah.


There are perhaps two ways of explaining the custom of lighting the Menorah inside, despite the emphasis of Chanukah on illuminating the “outside.”

The first is based on the regrettable phenomenon that negative influences have entered our homes.

In the “olden days,” a Jew knew that his home was thoroughly Jewish, a warm, inspired and insulated castle. It was a fortress of decency, morality and holiness. The home, not the synagogue, was the focal point of Jewish life, impervious to all the alien winds blowing outside.

However, in modern times, partly, but not entirely, due to the advent of modern technology and other factors, the most negative and insidious influences have penetrated the inner sanctum of Jewish life: the home.

In previous generations, the “outside” started at the entrance to our homes. If there was any darkness there, it was not coming from within. The Chanukah lights that were kindled at the entrances of our homes had the positive effect of bringing light into the “street.”


The Talmud states that the ideal time to kindle the Chanukah lights begins after sunset and continues until the Tarmudites no longer roam the streets.

The Tarmudites were a sect known for lingering in the street after dark. As long as there are still some people in the street, it is appropriate for the Chanukah lights to illuminate the darkness by publicizing the miracle to the outside.

Chassidic literature takes this Talmudic passage a step further. The Tarmudites persecuted the Jews of their day. Moreover, the letters of the word Tarmud when rearranged spell the word moredes, which means rebel.

Thus, the meaning of lighting the Chanukah lights “until the feet of the Tarmudites cease from the street,” is reinterpreted thus: the objective of the Chanukah lights is to bring an end to the rebellious spirit that exists and prevails in the outside world.


If our objective is to get rid of the negative atmosphere of the “outside,” we must acknowledge that the definition of “outside” has changed in our own day and age; the “outside” actually begins within our homes. It has penetrated and made inroads into our otherwise secure sanctuaries.

We have to light the Chanukah lights inside our homes now to illuminate the darkness of the outside influences that has seeped inside. Only once we have done that can we project the light outwards.

It should be noted, while the Chabad custom is to kindle the Chanukah lights inside the home, the Rebbe strongly encouraged public Menorah lighting to bring the miracle and light of Chanukah to the largest number of people, reaching all the way to the very outside of the outside.


This explanation is based on a negative reason: the regrettable phenomenon of the insidious darkness that has entered our homes and necessitates that we light the Menorah inside.

However, if we delve more deeply into the spiritual power of Chanukah lights, we can discover a positive basis for the custom of lighting the Menorah inside the home.

The concepts of “inside” and “outside” are not restricted simply to good versus evil or holiness versus impurity. The realms of goodness and holiness have their own inner and outer dimensions.

In truth, there are two layers within every level of spiritual growth that we can justly refer to as “inside” and “outside.”

The first is between that which transcends our intellect and the intellect itself.

Judaism accepts the reality that G-d is above and beyond the grasp of human intellect. Even so, He wants us to use our intellect to internalize the supra-rational aspects of the Divine.


The prime example of this dynamic of introducing the supra-rational into the mind is the kindling of the Chanukah lights. The Chanukah light, we are told by Chasidic Masters, is composed of the light of the first day of creation, which enabled one to see from one end of the world to the other. It was a transcendent light, one that will be fully revealed in the Messianic Era.

This light represents the most sublime spiritual energy that even other so-called “major Holidays” are unable to reveal. Indeed, the mislabeling of Chanukah as a minor holiday is a gross distortion of reality. According to one Midrashic source, Chanukah will be recognized as more prominent in the Messianic Age than all the current major Holidays. The reason for this? Chanukah will be synonymous with the transcendent light of the future.

When we light the Chanukah Menorah today we create a physical light that publicizes the miracle and introduces the outside world to the concept of miracles. Moreover, we simultaneously enable the transcendent Divine light of the future to suffuse our souls, our homes and indeed the outside world.

Thus, Chanukah’s spiritual dynamic is to bring infinite and transcendent energies into the finite parameters of the temporal world.

Where does this transition or transmission take place?

It happens as we move from the realm of the infinite into the world of rationality.

From the vantage-point of Chanukah, rationality and logic are “outside” the pale of the supernatural and the supra-rational.

Thus, lighting the Menorah inside the home hints that Chanukah is within and beyond the realm of logic. Even the most abstract and spiritual logic, in relation to the trans-logical light of Chanukah, is considered to be “outside.”

Chanukah also symbolizes the core of our souls. The Chanukah miracle started with the discovery of a concealed cruse of oil, with the intact seal of the High Priest. This, Chassidic thought teaches, equates to the kindling of the core of our souls that takes place when we light the Chanukah Menorah.

While our soul’s essence is beyond rationality, each soul also possesses and manifests itself through our intellect; the “inside” and “outside” aspects of our personalities, respectively.

Lighting the Menorah indoors suggests that the “outside,” i.e., our intellectual faculties, really begin inside our souls. They too need to be illuminated with the power that flows from our core. When our spiritual core is ignited, it has the power to affect the soul’s “outer” intellectual powers. They are elevated to a higher level, from which they spread to all of our other faculties and beyond.


The closer we get to the Final Redemption, when our soul’s essence will be fully ignited, the more power we have to affect all of our “inner-outer” faculties with the light of the soul’s essence. This will then become the bridge to illumination of the “outside-outside.”

In earlier periods of our history, when we were far from the Messianic Age, our ability to introduce the transcendent G-dly light, and the deep essence of our souls, into the finite intellectual sphere was restricted.

It is only in recent times that the teachings of Chassidus, which grant us a profound taste of the teachings of Moshiach, were revealed widely. This revolutionary change represented a watershed moment. Just as the floodgates of the inner precincts of Torah are now open, so too the floodgates of our souls have been opened to allow the heretofore concealed core of our souls to illuminate our intellect and, from there, our entire personalities; and, ultimately, to illuminate the farthest reaches of the world.


Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (http://beismoshiachmagazine.org/).
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