How to Light Your Menorah
Here are my tips for how to light your menorah in ways that your neighbors will never forget.
The crux of the mitzvah of lighting the Menorah on Chanukah is about publicizing the miracle of Chanukah (pirsumei nisa). And I take that very seriously.
Here are some tips that I have picked up over the years, for optimal publicity, and some ways to make your Menorah more memorable for you, your family and your neighborhood.
Where & What To Light
Light at Window Facing the Street
You have to make sure the Menorah is lit in a place that it will be seen by passing people. Many people light inside their home, and that is all good. If you do that you are fulfilling the commandment (mitzvah) and lighting correctly but the downside is that the anti-Semites are not easily able to identify your home as Jewish.
Light at Your Front Door
Many people prefer this to lighting inside, as it is easier for people to steal your Menorah when passing your home. You will want to watch out for the neighborhood thieves who are looking to fulfill the mitzvah of lighting the Menorah.
The greater the safety hazard, the more the miracle will be publicized. I remember the most publicized Menorah in my hometown, when I was growing up. The news showed up, right after the fire trucks. The whole city of Rochester knew about the great miracle of Chanukah that year, when the Minkin family lit their porch on fire for the first night.
Light Near the Public Domain
You can light your Menorah by the sidewalk in front of your house. Better yet, to publicize the miracle even more, light it on the street. This will force oncoming traffic to recognize the miracle, when they swerve, to avoid your Menorah.
Light on a car. This is the most efficient way to publicize the miracle while driving under trees and starting random fires.
Oil or Candles?
You want to pick the correct flame for you. Lighting the Menorah is about expression. It is about bringing the miracle of Chanukah and the oil lasting eight days to the public. For this reason, I light with candles. True, it looks better to light with oil, and the miracle happened with oil, but I consider it a religious virtue to save money.
If you are purchasing candles, buy more than one box. I bought the box of 44 candles last year, and I thought I was set. It takes one box of 44 candles to light the Menorah for all eight days. However, before I bought the box, I didn’t realize that somebody's job is to stand there in the factory and to break half of them.
Camp fires are not an option. I asked, and the city does not allow for that. They said they wouldn’t allow me to have six fires on my front lawn on the sixth night. Is that religious persecution? I will let you decide.
Types of Menorahs
A Menorah is a way to express yourself, and to show the people your commitment to your tradition. For this reason, I take a slab of wood and glue some chrome nuts on it. Other people pop into the Jewish day school the day before Chanukah, and force their way into their niece’s kindergarten arts-n-crafts class. Other people would say it is wrong to take the glue and wood away from a child. If you don’t like the elementary school fare, here are a couple of other unique ideas for your Menorah.
Very cool. I tried this, as I thought I would be able to publicize the miracle around the neighborhood more effectively this way. I figured, instead of people looking in my window, I would bring the drone to theirs. It was nice to be able to share the Chanukah miracle while looking inside other people’s windows. The shock of seeing the candles moving right outside their window had one person saying, ‘Chanukah Miracle.’ One person even shouted, ‘Somebody is spying on me.’
The only issue with my drone Menorah is the candles went out right away. It is pretty hard to control the wind, and I couldn’t keep my hand around the candles the whole time. I have a hard-enough time getting a barbeque started when it’s windy outside.
Although the LEDs do save electricity, and you can do some cool color mixing with the DMX controller, most would say you do not fulfil the commandment of lighting with these. Why? Because LEDs are not enough of a safety hazard.
Very hip for your Menorah to be a work of art. A lot of people are doing this. If you have a decent painting, like a Monet, drill a few holes into the top of the canvas. Make sure the holes are big enough for the candles you are using. The Magpie painting, with snow, is especially fitting for the season.
Regular Sized Menorah
Do not try to compete with Chabad. Chabad’s Menorah will always be bigger. One year, I made a Menorah that was ten feet tall. The next year, Chabad had one 10 stories tall. The rabbi was on a ladder extending off the fire truck. When he couldn’t reach the middle candle, they placed the rabbi on a scaffolding. That is commitment to tradition. Maybe I got dejected. I couldn’t compete with the rabbi. He wasn’t even lighting Chanukah candles. He was lighting Chanukah torches, and the city was fine with it.
As for me, I am not allowed to light anywhere in the public domain, as new city ordinance forbids it. Now, I light my candles on a slab of wood with nuts, in my house. But you, who have not received multiple fines yet, can still get out there and publicize the miracle. Take from my lessons and bring the awareness of Chanukah to the masses!