In light of the above, we can understand why it is a mitzvah to place the Chanukah lights at the left side of the doorway and why they should be placed at the outside of the entrance to one’s house.

[The explanation of an additional concept is, however, first necessary.] Our Sages teach: “When the Jewish people carry out the will of G‑d, their work is performed by others.”1 By way of background: It is written, “Ascend, O G‑d, to the place of Your repose.”2 A different verse states that “G‑d is a Man of war.”3 There are thus two patterns of Divine conduct: war and repose.4

[We can understand these concepts by examining the analogous modes of behavior within the human sphere.] When there are two warriors, neither of whom will submit to the other, they will fight until one prevails. Repose, in contrast, reflects an entirely different approach. Not only do the two not fight, but [the weaker one] submits to the authority [of the stronger] as a matter of course.

[For example, King] Shlomo [ruled over a vast kingdom] without having to wage wars. Rather, his awesome greatness and majesty caused his subjects to submit to him. [For this reason] he was called “a man of repose.”5

The submission which is engendered by this approach is greater than the submission that results from war. In the latter instance, even though one side overcomes his adversary and forces him to submit, the submission is not as complete. [In fact, even the possibility of rebellion exists.] In contrast, when one person submits to another out of deference to his greatness and majesty, this submission is complete to the extent that the former party no longer remains a separate entity of all.

[Parallels to the] above concepts are reflected in the divine service of our G‑dly souls. “G‑d created [the universe in such a way that] each being has its opposite counterpart.”6 Just as our holy soul possesses the potentials for intellect, emotion, thought, speech and action, we correspondingly possess an animal soul and a yetzer hara — a potential for intellect, emotion,7 thought, speech and action, stemming from the sitra achra (lit., “the other side”).

We must constantly be involved in a struggle to enable the G‑dly soul to overcome the animal soul. Thus, “the time of prayer is a time of battle,”8 when we try to give the G‑dly soul this advantage [in order to influence our conduct and thus] “turn away from evil” and “do good.” This is accomplished through meditation, as explained above.

There is, however, [a higher rung of service,] the level of repose, which is the service of the righteous. The essential power of their love, their delight in G‑dliness which causes them to utterly despise evil, to “hate evil,” averts the necessity for war. On the contrary, the emotions of the animal soul become nullified of their own accord. For “as wax melts before fire, [so the wicked] will perish before You,”9 and the sparks [of G‑dliness enclothed in the animal soul ascend] on their own accord and are incorporated in the “side” of holiness, just as a candle becomes nullified within a torch.

This is the difference between the prayers of Shabbos and those of the weekdays. As mentioned above, prayer during the week is “a time of battle.” On Shabbos, however, [prayer has a different function]. [This is reflected in the prohibitions of Shabbos. Among the labors] forbidden is borrer [which literally means “selection”, and refers to the removal of waste from food. Borrer also has, however, a spiritual connotation. It refers to the avodah of refining the material substance of the world, separating sparks of G‑dliness from the material shells in which they are enclothed. This manner of divine service is not carried out on Shabbos.]

This is not to say that sparks [of G‑dliness] are not elevated on Shabbos. [The contrary is true. Sparks are elevated, but by different means. On Shabbos,] the light drawn down to this world is so intense that [the measure of yesh which envelops these sparks] becomes nullified as a matter of course and there is no need for any spiritual battle.

This is made possible only by the labor of refinement which is carried out during the preceding six weekdays. It is these [endeavors] which cause the great light of Shabbos to be drawn down. [This is implied by the teaching of our Sages,] “Whoever toiled before the advent of Shabbos will eat on Shabbos.”10

[On this basis, we can appreciate the spiritual rationale for a law ordained by our Sages (Shabbos 69b).] Our Sages state that a person who is proceeding on a journey and does not know when Shabbos falls should count six days, [and rest on the seventh]. [First, he must carry out] the work of refinement, [which is characterized by a stance of] “battle”. Afterwards, he should observe the Sabbath for one day, [for then he can experience] repose. ([The necessity for the pattern of work followed by rest is further borne out by the fact that] the Talmud (loc. cit.) rejects the conflicting opinion that first one should observe one day as Shabbos and only then count six “weekdays”.)

On this basis, we can understand the statement that “When the Jews carry out the will of G‑d, their work is performed by others.”11 “Carrying out the will of G‑d,” implies loving Him “with all your might,”12 desiring to cleave to the very Being and Essence of the Ein Sof through the performance of the mitzvos, as explained above.

This, in turn, draws down the “light” of “Torah”, referring to the Torah as it exists in its source, so that the very Being and Essence of the Ein Sof shines within this lowly realm. This causes “their work [i.e., the spiritual task of the Jewish people] to be performed by others”; [the material substance enveloping] the G‑dly sparks becomes nullified as a matter of course, just as a candle [loses its independent identity as a luminary] when incorporated in a torch. The sitra achra is thus refined without any need for war. Instead, its bittul comes about as a natural response [to the revelation of light].

* * *

On this basis, we can understand the concept of the Chanukah lights. The Greeks desired to make the Jews “forget [G‑d’s] Torah and violate the decrees of [His] will.” This reflects the wisdom of kelipah. For this reason, the Greeks defiled all the oil in the Sanctuary.

[This is particularly significant, for oil is an established metaphor for wisdom. The Greeks did not destroy the oil in the Beis HaMikdash: they defiled it.] This reflects how “extraneous wisdom,” the wisdom of kelipah, can impart impurity to the wisdom of Torah, which is the wisdom of holiness.13 [The Greeks desired to separate the Jews from a connection to G‑d. Thus, our Sages relate that they told the Jews:] “Write on the horn of an ox [that you have no share in the G‑d of Israel].”14

This concept can be explained as follows: As taught in Tanya, end of ch. 8, the impurity imparted by secular wisdom is more severe than the impurity imparted by frivolous matters. The latter impart impurity merely to one’s emotive attributes, to the middos. This can be [corrected] by revealing the light of [holy] wisdom, and thus illuminating the emotive attributes, as explained in Torah Or15 in the maamar beginning BeChaf-Hei BeKislev, in regard to the [effect produced by] the lights of the Menorah [of the Beis HaMikdash].

In contrast, secular wisdom imparts impurity to [one’s intellectual faculties], namely, the qualities of Chochmah, Binah and Daas (lit., “wisdom,” “understanding” and “knowledge”). When speaking loosely, these qualities can be considered as belonging to the essence of the soul. Thus, [secular knowledge] can make the totality of one’s soul impure, heaven forbid.

To explain: The fundamental difference between the wisdom of holiness and the wisdom of the sitra achra is that the wisdom of holiness is characterized by bittul, the quality of mah (lit., “What?”16 ). A note in ch. 35 of Tanya thus states that the Ein Sof-light is vested in the faculty of Chochmah. This results from the [complete] bittul [that Chochmah manifests], as explained in [Tanya,] ch. 19.

[The influence of Chochmah] causes [all of the faculties of] one’s soul [to function with] bittul, and thus motivates him to observe the Torah and its mitzvos. Similarly, all positive emotive attributes stem from bittul.

In contrast, secular wisdom causes yeshus and self-concern, bringing about a lack of bittul. Thus, it stands in direct opposition to the entire realm of the Torah and its mitzvos. Similarly, it evokes all the undesirable emotional traits, such as pride, anger, envy, desire and honor-seeking.

When a person is batel, and not pre-occupied with himself, he will not seek means of fulfilling his desires. Surely, he will not have a powerful desire for such matters. Similarly, he will not fall prey to pride, anger, envy or a desire for honor, whereas the [self-concerned] nature of yeshus evokes all these [undesirable traits].

[Thus, the Greeks’ assertion of power over the Jews represented an attempt to uproot the bittul of the Torah’s wisdom and replace it by the self-oriented approach of secular knowledge. Accordingly,] when the Hasmonean royal family overpowered and defeated [the Greeks],17 they ordained that the Chanukah lights be lit as an expression of the “light” of “Torah”.

* * *

[The Chanukah lamp is identified with the revelations of the era of the future Redemption, for] the eight lights represent eight expressions of the Name Havayah (recalling the above-quoted phrase, ner Havayah — lit., “the lamp of G‑d”18 ). [At the same time, [the eight lights parallel] the eight strings of the harp of the era of the future Redemption.19 Indeed, the four letters that make up the word כנור (“harp”) can be rearranged to mean כו נר (“26 lights”).20 [The numerical equivalent of the Divine Name Havayah is 26.] Eight times [the letters of] Havayah is numerically equivalent to [the Hebrew letters of] the name Yitzchak. [This is a further allusion to] the era of the future Redemption, since, as our Sages relate,21 in that era we will tell Yitzchak, “You are our ancestor.”

Hence, [since they offer a foretaste of the era of the future Redemption, the Chanukah lights are identified] with the “light” of “Torah”, for the [Hasmoneans] drew down such a powerful light that, [ultimately,] the kelipos and sitra achra were nullified of their own accord, without war. This powerful light was generated by their mesirus nefesh: they were willing to sacrifice their lives for the sanctification of G‑d’s name.

(In this context we can understand why [the Sages said that] “the Hasmonean royal family overpowered...,” [for they drew down an overpowering light]. [This represents a twofold process.] At first, there was a necessity for war, [i.e., the divine service of] nullifying the yesh to the ayin. When the [Hasmoneans had completed this service with] mesirus nefesh, [they proceeded to a higher rung:] they ordained [the kindling of] the Chanukah lights, drawing down the “light” of “Torah”.)

* * *

[We can now also understand why] the mitzvah is to place [the Chanukah lights] at the outside of the entrance to one’s house, [facing] the public domain. This reflects the task of refining the sphere outside [a Jew’s dwelling, i.e., beyond the realm of holiness]. The Chanukah lamp lights up the public domain, inducing bittul even in the “mountains of separation” [mentioned earlier].

[The above adds insight to the directive of our Sages,22 that] the Chanukah lights should be kindled “until the feet of the Tarmudites depart [from the marketplace].” [As well as defining a certain extent of time, this teaching has a deeper meaning. The word כליאr(here translated “depart”) also has the connotation of “expire”. Thus, the above directive of the Sages can be interpreted to mean that the Chanukah lights should be kindled] until they motivate the Tarmudites — who represent the yetzer hara and the animal soul — to expire [with love for G‑d].

The letters of the singular form of the word for Tarmudites (תרמוד) can be rearranged to form the word מורדת which means “a rebel.”23 This refers to the kelipah of Amalek, who “recognizes his Master and yet willfully desires to rebel [against Him].”24 The “feet of the Tarmudites” must “expire”, i.e., the sparks [of G‑dliness contained within this kelipah] must be incorporated in the “side” of holiness, just like the bittul of a candle when it is incorporated in a torch, while the actual kelipah of Amalek will be nullified: “As wax melts before fire, [so the wicked] will perish.”

This is the purpose of the Chanukah lights, to illumine the public domain, the place of darkness, so that “though I dwell in darkness, G‑d is a light for me.” Furthermore, חשך (“darkness”) can be interpreted as an acronym for the Hebrew words ,שיר ,חמור
כלב (“donkey”, “ox” and “dog”). [To quote the Kabbalistic image,] “There is a donkey and an ox, and a dog emerges from between them.”25 That is to say: the middle letters [i.e., the letters that are “between them”] of the words חמור and שור (“donkey” and “ox”) match the numerical equivalent of כלב (“dog”), which is a well-known Midrashic metaphor for Amalek. Thus, the Chanukah lights are intended to illuminate the darkness, to cause the kelipos of Amalek to be nullified of their own accord.

This is the intent of placing the Chanukah lights at the left side of the entrance, to refine and correct [the influence drawn down from] the left vector [of the Sefiros] and thus to cause the kelipos to be nullified, just as a candle is nullified when incorporated in a torch.

The view of Rashi, [that the Chanukah lights] should be placed in a courtyard, [can similarly be explained according to the above]. (As pointed out by Kehillas Yaakov,) the word חצר (“courtyard”) is numerically equivalent to the sum of the Hebrew words גבורה ,כינה and הוד, the Sefiros of the left vector. It is well known that kelipah derives its nurture from the left vector, for which reason it is alluded to as “the cow which receives [its nurture] from the left.”26 The manifold [process of self-] limitation [which stems from the left vector] can allow even the yetzer hara and the animal soul to derive spiritual nurture, as explained in Likkutei Torah in the maamar beginning Vaydaber...Zos Chukas HaTorah.27

For these reasons, the Chanukah lights should be placed in the courtyard, to correct [the influence of] the left vector. This is accomplished from a stance of repose and not from the stance of war. [The negative influences] are then nullified of their own accord. Thus, the [spiritual] intent [of the Chanukah lights] is the same whether they are placed in the courtyard or in the public domain.

This can be accomplished only when there is a mezuzah on the right side of the entrance. Then it is possible for the Chanukah lights to be placed on the left side, [and thus to refine it]. Only when first there is [this] “lamp” of “mitzvah” — the love [of G‑d] “with all your might,” the [unbounded desire] to cleave to Him — is it possible to draw down the “light” of “Torah”, the Chanukah lights, which correct [the influence of] the left vector.

When there is no mezuzah — the “lamp” of “mitzvah” — on the right side, the [full] measure of the “light” of “Torah” cannot be drawn down. As explained above, it is only when “the Jewish people carry out G‑d’s will,” [i.e., when they have an unlimited yearning for Him,] that “their work [of refinement] is performed by others”; [only then does this refinement come about as a natural result of the power of the light].

Therefore, [when there is no mezuzah on the right side,] the Chanukah lights should be placed on the right side, for they too are a mitzvah and, like the other mitzvos, represent “the right hand that draws close.” [In such an instance,] the influence of the “light” of “Torah” which brings about the correction of the left vector is represented only by [the position of the Chanukah lights,] their placement at the entrance to one’s home. For this shows that light shines into the public domain, on to “the separate mountains,” bringing about bittul, and causing the soul to expire [with love for G‑d] even in those distant realms.


Based on the above, we can understand the placement of the Chanukah lights on the left side. When the Jews “carry out the will of G‑d, their work is performed by others.”

There are [two approaches in the service of G‑d]: war and repose. War reflects the service of beinonim in battling their yetzer hara and causing the G‑dly soul to overpower the animal soul and thus, “turn away from evil” and “do good,” as explained in regard to the service of the “lamp” of “mitzvah”.

The divine service of the righteous, by contrast, is characterized by repose. They despise evil, and have no need for battle at all. This is “carrying out G‑d’s will,” loving Him “with all your might.” The nullification of the yesh to the ayin which this involves evokes the shining of the “light” of “Torah”. [When this happens,] “their work,” [the work of refinement,] “is performed by others,” and the sparks [of G‑dliness enclothed in the material substance of the world] become nullified of their own accord. This constitutes a complete transformation.

This is the concept that underlies the kindling of Chanukah lights. [The Greeks] defiled all the oil [in the Sanctuary]. This reflects the impurity that secular wisdom can impart to the wisdom of holiness, which is the wisdom of the Torah (as explained in ch. 8 of Tanya). [To correct this,] it was necessary to draw down the very source of the Torah. Thus, [when the Hasmoneans] overpowered [the Greeks] through mesirus nefesh, they ordained that the Chanukah lights be kindled in the public domain — so that the kelipos should be nullified as a natural response [to the revelation of this light]. For this reason [they are placed] in the public domain, to illuminate the place of darkness.

This, however, is possible only when there is a mezuzah, representing the “lamp” of “mitzvah”, on the right side. Only then can [the full measure of] the “light” of “Torah” be drawn down. Therefore, when there is no mezuzah, [the Chanukah lights] should be placed on the right side, for they are a mitzvah like other mitzvos. Then, [to a diminutive degree,] the “light” of “Torah” is drawn down to correct the left vector. Placing [the Chanukah lights] in the public domain suffices to indicate this function.