Where to Light the Hanukkah Menorah
The proper placement of the menorah, for a variety of situations.
1. Where should the menorah be placed?
The most ideal place is outside the door of the house that faces the street, to publicize the miracle of Chanukah as much as possible. This is the prevalent custom in Israel today.
2. Why is this not done in Diaspora countries?
In the Diaspora, the prevalent custom is to light the menorah indoors. Several reasons have been suggested for this:
- Non-Jews may become antagonistic.
- Others may extinguish or steal the menorah.
- The winter weather conditions of rain and strong winds do not make it practical to light outside.
3. How does one overcome the problem of winds in Israel?
The menorah should be placed inside a protective glass case. Although this involves extra expense, one is obligated to use such a case in order to fulfill the mitzvah properly.
4. Where outside the house should the menorah be placed?
- If the door of the house is adjacent to the street, the menorah should be placed in the street outside the door.
- If there is a garden or yard between the street and the door of the house, there are two customs where to light. Some place the menorah in the street by the entrance to the garden or yard, and some place it inside the garden or yard by the entrance to the house.
5. Must the entrance to the garden or yard have a doorframe?
No, any opening that has the form of an entrance may be used. However, one cannot light next to a completely open side of a garden, even if the garden is surrounded by walls on the other three sides.
6. On which side of the entrance should one light?
The menorah should be placed on the left side of the entrance, within one handbreadth of the doorpost (approx. 10 cm). Since the mezuzah is on the right side, a person who enters the doorway will thereby be surrounded by mitzvot.
7. What if there is no mezuzah on the entrance (e.g. there is no complete doorframe)?
If there is no mezuzah on the entrance, the menorah should be placed on the right side.
8. What if it is difficult to place the menorah on the left side (e.g. there is a wall there)?
The menorah may be placed on the right side.
9. May one place the menorah in the space of the actual doorway?
Yes, the menorah may be placed in the space of the doorway on the left side (when there is a mezuzah). Indeed, this is the most preferred position for the menorah.
10. In this case should the menorah be placed flush alongside the left doorpost, or horizontally across the entrance?
If there is sufficient space, it is preferable to place it alongside the doorpost so that all the lights will be within a handbreadth of the wall. If this is impractical, the menorah may be placed across the entrance with its left branch close to the left doorpost.
11. What is the correct height of the menorah?
Ideally it should be placed so that the flame is above three handbreadths from the ground (approx. 30 cm) and lower than 10 handbreadths (approx. 1 meter). This demonstrates that the menorah has been lit for a mitzvah.
12. What if the menorah cannot be seen from the street in such a low position?
In such a case the menorah should be placed at the height at which most people can see it, in order to create maximum publicity.
13. Is it preferable to place the menorah on the right of the door below 10 handbreadths, or on the left of the door above 10 handbreadths?
The menorah should be placed in the position that is most visible to people in the street. If the menorah is equally visible in both positions, it should be placed on the right below 10 handbreadths.
14. What if the menorah will not be seen from any position if it is placed next to the door?
Then the menorah should be lit inside the house by a window that can be seen from the street.
15. What if a person has neither a door nor a window that can be seen from the street?
The menorah should be placed on the left side of the doorway leading into the room that is most used during the evening. (source: Minchas Yitzhak 7:48)
16. If a person lives in an apartment building, where should he light?
- This depends on the two customs mentioned earlier (see question 4). According to the first custom, the menorah should be lit either in the street by the entrance to the communal garden or yard, or by the door of the apartment building.
- According to the second custom, it should be lit inside the house by a window that faces the street. If there is no window that faces the street but neighbors pass by his front door, the menorah should be lit there. Otherwise, see previous question. (source: OC 671:5; Rabbi Nissim Karelitz)
17. May one light the menorah on the stairway outside the door of the apartment?
This should be done only when there is no other alternative. Although the people living in the building will walk through the stairway and see the menorah, this is not a public street and the publicity is minimal. It is considerably better to light the menorah by a window facing a street, or by an outside entrance. (source: Responsa Az Nidabru 5:39; Orchos Rebbeinu 3:12:31)
18. If more than one person lights by an outside entrance, how will people know who lit each menorah?
It is not necessary to know who lit each menorah. According to some opinions, only one person should light by the entrance and the others should light by a window facing the street, thereby publicizing the miracle in more locations.
19. Should everyone light on the left side, or should some people light on the right?
If there is sufficient room, everyone should light on the left side.
20. When should the menorah be placed by a window?
There are several possible situations:
- The entrance to the garden, yard, or house is not visible from the street (see question 14).
- When living in an apartment building, according to the second custom (see question 16).
- In the Diaspora (see question 2).
- Another person already lit by the entrance to the building, according to one opinion (see question 18).
21. Which window should be chosen for lighting?
One should choose the window that enables the maximum number of people to see the menorah, since publicizing the miracle is an important part of the mitzvah. For example, it is better to light by a bedroom or kitchen window that can be seen by many people, than by a dining room window that can be seen by fewer people.
22. Does the height of the window matter?
If possible, the flames should be within 10 handbreadths (about 1 meter) from the floor of the house. If the menorah cannot be seen from the street at this height, it should be placed higher (see question 12).
23. What about an upper floor window above street level?
One may certainly place the menorah by a window that is less than 20 cubits (about 11 meter) above the street, since at this height it is easily visible. According to many opinions, it is permitted to light even above this height since the menorah is visible to people in the house, in nearby buildings and occasionally to people in the street.
Some opinions disqualify a window that is higher than 20 cubits since the menorah is not easily noticed from the street. According to this opinion, the menorah should be lit next to the door of the house or of the building.
24. Where exactly by the window should one place the menorah?
On the right side of the window as one faces it.
25. May one light by a frosted window?
It is preferable to light by a plain glass window so that the number of lights can be seen clearly. If this is not possible, one may light by a frosted window, even though the flames appear somewhat fuzzy from the street.
26. May several people light by the same window?
Yes, but effort should be made to space the menorahs apart, so that one can easily see the number of lights in each menorah. If several suitable windows are available, it is preferable for each person to light by a different window.
27. Where should a yeshiva/university student light?
- If he sleeps in the dormitory, he should light there.
- If he sleeps at home or with a family, it is preferable to light where he sleeps. However, if this will cause considerable disturbance to his learning schedule, he should light at the school.
28. Where in the school should he light?
- According to many opinions, he should light in his dorm room since this is designated for his personal use and is considered to be his home. It is praiseworthy to eat one or two meals each day during Chanukah in the dorm room (if possible).
- According to others, it is preferable to light in the dining room since this is a more important place than a bedroom.
- According to a third opinion, he should light by the entrance to the dormitory, or by the entrance to the yard.
In any event, students must obtain permission from the staff before lighting anywhere, in order to avoid any inconvenience or risk of fire.
Excerpted from "Guidelines" - more than 200 commonly asked questions about Chanukah (Targum/Feldheim).
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