Chanukah 2017: Inspiration from Within
The Chanukah candles inspire and enlighten their observer. In fact, this is their job. We light the candles to commemorate the awesome miracles of Chanukah and to feel the same sense of awe and appreciation we had at the time of the miracles - to some degree.
The gemora (Talmud) in tractate Shabbos (21b) teaches, the Chanukah menorah should be placed outside the doorway to one’s home. This is to publicize the miracles of Chanukah*, (Rashi -early commentator). The gemora continues, if one lives on a second floor (has no door to the outside) or if there is a “danger” present, he should place the menorah indoors by a window that faces the street. If he has no such window, then he should place it by any door that he has.
The “danger” the gemora is referring to, is a time in history when the gentiles outlawed the Jewish people from lighting candles, of any sort, (Shabbos, Chanukah, etc.). Therefore, it would be risky and unwise to light a menorah outside in their doorways. So instead the minhag (custom) became that we light the menorah by a window that faces the street. We continue to light our menorahs this way today.
Many poskim (halachic authorities) challenge this modern custom. Nowadays there is no such apparent “danger”, (Thank G-d), why then don’t we revert to our original practice of placing our menorahs outside in the doorway?
Says the Aruch HaShulchan (671:24), being in exile, scattered all around the globe, many of us are in places inconducive for lighting a menorah outside in the doorway, (while Florida maybe fine, Ohio has 20-degree snow-covered winters). Additionally, there is no need to trouble everyone to place their menorahs in special weather-proof glass cases and schlep them outside (as practiced in Israel).
Sfas Emes (Rabbi Yehuda Aryeh Leib Alter) offers a homiletic meaning to this current day minhag. We remain lighting our menorahs indoors because we are still apprehensive about “dangers.” - Not physical, but rather spiritual dangers from the “Outside.”
Rabbi Eliyah Meir Bloch zt” l (the co-founder of the Telshe Yeshiva), was faced with a daunting task when his yeshiva originated. He had to take the standard American Jewish teenager with zero experience in the learning environment of a yeshiva, and infiltrate his Nishamah (soul) and make Torah study and Judaism enjoyable. He understood almost immediately, television was a major obstacle to their success as Torah students. He couldn’t understand how a Jewish family could possibly bring a TV into their homes, they were virtually pumping into their pure and wholesome Jewish homes all the negative and harmful stimuli of the gentile world!
Rabbi Ephraim Nisenbaum in his sefer “Power Lines” writes; throughout our current galus (exile) we lost the luxury to use the Chanukah candles to inspire the world. The outside influences have become so robust and overpowering, the “winds” of negative influence made their way into our homes. Consequently, it is our job to keep our homes as pure as possible. This is where our families’ primary emphasis should be.
The radiance from the menorah within our homes should serve as protection and inspiration for ourselves and families. Even when we publicize the spectacular miracles of Chanukah, we do it from within. This is how we can best utilize the power and potential of the “lights.”
May the full experience of the Chanukah lights inspire us to protect our homes, families, and Torah values from the “Outside” this Chanukah season! -Amen!
Have A Wonderful and Inspirational Chanukah!
Maverick V. Peters _______________ *The Miracles of Chanukah (in a nutshell): After the Maccabees (small family of orthodox priests) emerged victorious from their war with the Greek empire (analogous to a school of orthodox rabbis defeating the US military), the Jewish nation went to the Temple to see what remained. They found but one flask of pure olive oil (the only kind of oil permitted for the menorah). Unfortunately, this one flask was only enough to last for one day of service and it took eight days to produce this kind of oil. Hashem preformed a miracle, that one flask of oil lasted for a full eight days -just enough to produce more. We celebrate this miracle every year by lighting our own menorahs for eight days.