Home for Chanukah

Our Sages have devised a distinctive framework for kindling the Chanukah lights. The ‎specific setting of this commandment and the persons charged with this obligation highlight the character ‎of this responsibility, and in turn shed light on the constitution of this festival.‎

Location of Lights

The ideal location of the Neiros satisfies two extreme elements. When society permits i.e. when there is ‎no threat of an anti-Semitic reprisal, candles are lit outside at the entrance to one’s courtyard. This sweet-‎spot finds the middle ground between two conflicting interests, public and private expression. One does ‎not light in the street, but in one’s personal property, it is a Mitzvah for the home, a festival to be ‎celebrated with one’s family. (This aspect gains greater expression during times of danger when we light ‎indoors only exhibiting for the residents.) On the other hand the Menorah is lit close to the street in an effort to publicize the miracle. (This aspect ‎dictates the time for kindling in order to maximize exposure to the outside traffic.) To accommodate these two ‎dimensions Chanukah lights are lit at the extremity of one’s address, the edge of one’s home on the cusp ‎of the public domain. ‎

Responsible Party

It is striking that this Mitzvah is a collective obligation. Chanukah lights are an instruction directed at the ‎household not its individual members. The people who live in the house are commanded as a unit to light a ‎lamp to memorialize the miracle. Shabbos lights, in contrast, are an obligation on individual members of ‎the household. Although the occupants, can collectively discharge their obligation to light Shabbos candles ‎by having one person act as an agent on behalf of all residents, ultimately, the responsibility of the ‎Mitzvah devolves on each person separately. ‎

Nature of Chanukah

This festival is famous for the victory achieved over the Syrian-Greeks. This was not a war about ‎autonomy, nor did it concern national wealth and natural resources. It was a confrontation between two ‎ideologies, two axioms, Greek philosophy versus Torah morality. ‎

The key encounter was not the battles fought on the battleground, or disputations and ‎discourses delivered from podiums and pulpits of Greek gymnasiums. It was a war that waged and raged within people’s ‎homes, within dining rooms, bedrooms and lounge areas. Greece was trying to influence Jewish people to ‎adopting their literature, sports and pantheon of gods. They were offering a different way of life, ‎attempting to promulgate their culture and diminish Torah way of thinking. ‎

In winning the war, the Hasmonean’s taught the supremacy of Torah’s doctrine. This was a victory ‎achieved and to be celebrated within one’s home. Their triumph honed the message that the overarching ‎direction of our lives is to be governed by Hashem and His Torah. ‎

The home is the Jewish fortress and the atmosphere ‎that pervades within holds the key for preserving the principles of Hashem’s dedicated army. Chanukah edifies us, by defining our home as a ‘Torah Home’ as opposed to a ‘Greek Home’ or ‘American ‎Home’. Chanukah is about reclaiming our own culture. We should live and aspire to the truly important ‎values, which Hashem has demonstrated, dictated and detailed in His Torah. ‎

Lighting the Menorah

The base line accomplishment of this Mitzvah is aimed at the family, and not the individual. This is aptly ‎captured by the Halachic cliché Ner Ish u’Baiso, ‘ a light for a man and his household’ i.e. the family lights ‎as a unit. This festival seeks to realign the family orientation. It is only after that the general purpose and ‎direction has been clearly delineated, that one can deal with the specifics appropriate for each person. ‎

Torah is to be the guiding light within one’s household and therefore the candles are lit outside the home ‎filtering the impressions coming in from outside. They act as a reminder that we seek to be selective about which ‎ideals and dreams make their entrance to our homes. Therefore, the best place for the flames is where the private ‎and public meet. Inside meets outside at the gateway to one’s courtyard, this is the perfect spot for the ‎Chanukah lights. ‎

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