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Why Is Your Menorah not in the Window?

Why Is Your Menorah not in the Window?

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Question:

I understand that once upon a time it was common to light the menorah at the entrance to one’s home, facing the street. These days this is no longer common, and most people place their menorah in the window instead. That way, everyone can see it. So why do some people persist in placing the menorah in an inside doorway?

Response:

You are right. The ideal place for the menorah—where it was placed it in Talmudic times—is at the front door of the home facing the street. However, the harsh realities of the Diaspora, both sociopolitical and meteorological, forced the menorah indoors, and the custom developed in some communities to put it on the windowsill instead. Yet another widespread tradition, followed also by the Chabad rebbes—and therefore the Chabad chassidim—is to put it by an interior door. Why?

A number of reasons have been suggested throughout the years for persisting to keep the menorah in a doorway. One factor may be that the Talmud describes the mezuzah on the right side and the menorah on the left side, surrounding us with mitzvahs. Many chassidic discources expound on the significance of this layout, which cannot be achieved in the window.

There are practical advantages, as well, which the Rebbe, of righteous memory, addressed in an addendum to a letter dated the last day of Chanukah 1969:

  • In order for the menorah’s light to be visible to those on the outside, it must be less than 20 cubits (under 32 feet) from the ground. As the windows of those who live on upper stories are often much higher than this, placing the menorah at the window does not serve those on the outside. And those on the inside are better served by a menorah in a doorway, which they will encounter whenever they pass.

  • Many traditional menorahs have back plates. When placing the menorah in the window, if you face it toward the street, the people in your house will not be able to see the candles, and if you face it inwards, what did you gain by placing it in the window?


    Source:
    Likkutei Sichot, vol. 5, p. 456.
    Rabbi Menachem Posner serves as staff editor for Chabad.org.
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    Anonymous Midwood December 12, 2017

    There's another issue for those who place a menorah (without a back that covers the lights) in the window. During the 1st days we are lighting on the right side of the menorah. After lighting in the window do you leave the menorah as is or turn it around to face the window? If it is for the outside then shouldn't it be turned so outsiders not get confused as to which side to light? If you don't turn it around then it is the correct side only for the insiders who view it. If you turn it around then it is the correct side only for outsiders who view it. Reply

    Moishe Las Vegas December 10, 2017

    A better question may be why Judaism seems to sometimes favor limited choices. Why, for example, can't homes lighting several menorahs not light at least one without a back at the window? Wouldn't that advertise the mitzvah outward which was the original purpose of lighting outside of the front door? Reply

    Anonymous ny December 3, 2014

    to Neshama Simcha re electric the fact is there are opinions who allow electric - for Shabbos a plug in light is kosher but for Hanukah it must be with a battery, with a separate battery for each light. Check with your rabbi. Reply

    Joyce Oxfeld Philadelphia December 3, 2014

    I just starting lighting instead of an electric one last year. I don't even have the candles for the kiddie one I used last year, and might need to get another menorah, if I can't find that. I am isolated from my former religious community and frankly have no expectations at all for myself, even though I got to enjoy the experience in the past, There is no Jewish community where I live now, and no offers to put me up for this one. I can live without the doughnuts , even the latkes but I miss the company and happiness . I do now at least understand what the holiday is about. Reply

    Yitzchak Kolakowski Richmond, VA February 7, 2011

    Almost all Chassidim, not only Chabad, follow the custom to light in an interior door rather than by the window, if it is possible. Reply

    Anonymous January 9, 2011

    I didn't put mine in the window or anywhere else to avoid a fire hazard. I am not fireproof. Reply

    Neshama Simcha Gainesville, Fl December 28, 2010

    electrical menorrah and Shabbat candle I know that all who read this will tell me that it is against mitzvah to use electrical Hannukka and Shabbat candle. I have a reason for bringing up this point.
    At the age of >72 yrs and no Jewish Nursing or Assisted living home near, when my time comes, I will be living among non Jews. Jews who are hospitalized, live in "Homes" aren't allowed to light candles/fires...State and Federal regs. We must rely on the electrical ones and have aides come by later and turn off the electrical ones.
    Please keep this in mind when placing your beloved ones into the care of others. or live alone in their homes. As we get to be senior, senior citizens, our ability to do all of our mitzvahs become few & fewer. Lighting candles can actually become a hazard as our hand begin to tremble and we become forgetful at times.
    If you know of someone residing in "Homes", an electrical Menorrah and battery operated candle, both on sale at this time of year, makes a nice gift with batteries. Reply

    Michoel S. Diego December 9, 2010

    shas sakono Could it be that Chabad's minhag to light in an inner doorway is becase it was dangerous in the USSR to light in the window or open front door? Reply

    bircz December 8, 2010

    missing i think the explanation misses the principal reason the Rebbe points in that same source cited at the end: because this is the way it was done by the rebbes. Our rebbes said so, and doing as our rebbes said is our hiddur (beautification). Reply

    Zev Denver December 8, 2010

    THE QUESTION HERE IS... If we still consider ourselves in “time of danger” then we should light in the doorway inside the house like Jews did for nearly 2000 years; and if not – light in the outdoors like many do in Israel!
    (If we are NOT in "times of danger", then if you’re living in an apartment building, you can light in the window!!) Reply

    moshe LA, CA December 8, 2010

    Re: Halachic source for window Itche, thanks for referring to "Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 671, 5".
    However that’s not quite sufficient, since all it says there is that if you don’t have a doorway to the outdoors (if you don’t live on ground level), then you light in the window instead of outside in the doorway. The custom that needs explaining is – Lighting in the window when you do have a doorway to the outdoors. If we consider ourselves in the category of “shas sakono” mentioned in shulchan aruch there - then don’t put it in the window; if not, why not in the front doorway?? Reply

    Yaakov Shwecky December 8, 2010

    Tamar But there were windows. In fact, they were much thicker than ours are. Ever been to the Old City? The walls there are as thick as the house... Reply

    Itche Brooklyn December 7, 2010

    Re: Halachic source for window Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 671, 5 Reply

    Tamar NY December 7, 2010

    windows There weren't the kind of wide windows with sills that we have today in olden / Talmudic times...
    Using the window sill in a room used by household members simply covers both pirsumei haness (publicizing the miracle) to the outside world as well as to the family - a wonderful solution! (if there is no back plate of course)

    Happy deLIGHTful Channuka Reply

    Anonymous jjjjj, nnnnnn December 5, 2010

    Halachicly there's no concept of window the question here assumes that the window is the next best place after front door, but as far as I know, in classic halachic sources there is no mention of window, its either for the people outside by placing at the front door (many in Israel today do so), or for the people inside, and then it should be placed in a doorway inside the house. see Ben Ish Chay Chanuka. The window is the custom that needs explaining... Reply

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