From “Guidelines to Tefilla” by Rabbi Elozor Barclay and Rabbi Yitzchok Jaeger

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Where to Light

The laws of where to light the menorah are extremely complex, and in many circumstances there are different opinions. In this chapter, general guidelines are provided, and ideally a rav should be consulted.

1.            Where should the menorah be placed?

In an ideal situation, the menorah should be placed outside the house facing the street, in order to achieve maximum publicity. This is the custom in Eretz Yisroel, unless other factors make this position unsuitable.

2.            Why is this not usually done in chutz la’aretz?

In chutz la’aretz the main custom is to light the menorah indoors. Several suggested reasons are:

•             The gentiles may become antagonistic.

•             They may extinguish or steal the menorah.

•             The winter weather conditions of rain and strong winds make it difficult to light outside.

3.            How does one overcome the problem of winds in Eretz Yisroel?

The menorah should be placed inside a protective glass box. Although this involves extra expense, one is obligated to use such a box in order to fulfill the mitzvah properly.

4.            Where outside the house should the menorah be placed?

Almost all houses today have a garden or yard between the street and the front door of the house.

•             According to some opinions, the menorah should be placed in the street by the entrance to the garden or yard.

•             According to other opinions, it should be placed in the garden or yard, by the door of the house.

5.            What qualifies as an entrance to a garden or yard?

The side of the garden or yard adjacent to the street must be at least partially closed, leaving a defined entrance. A doorframe or gate is not required. One may not 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 or door should one light?

This depends on whether there is a mezuzah at the entrance:

•             If there is a mezuzah, the menorah should be placed on the left side of the entrance within one tefach of the doorpost. Since the mezuzah is on the right side, a person who enters will thereby be surrounded by mitzvos. This is the usual situation when lighting by the door of the house.

•             If there is no mezuzah, the menorah should be placed on the right side of the entrance, within one tefach of the doorpost. This is the usual situation when lighting by the entrance to a garden or yard.

7.            What if it is difficult to place the menorah on the correct side?

The menorah may be placed on the other side.

8.            May one place the menorah in the space of the entrance or doorway?

Yes, this is a suitable position whether lighting by the entrance to a yard or by the door of the house.

9.            In this case should the menorah be placed across the entrance?

Ideally, the menorah should be put alongside the doorpost of the entrance rather than across the entrance. In this position, all the lights will be within a tefach of the doorpost.

10.          What is the correct height for the menorah?

Ideally, it should be placed so that the flame is above three tefachim from the ground and lower than ten tefachim. This demonstrates that the menorah has not been lit for illumination, but solely for a mitzvah.

11.          What if the menorah cannot be seen easily from the street in such a low position?

The menorah should be placed sufficiently high that passers-by can see it easily, in order to create maximum publicity.

12.          What if the menorah cannot be seen easily if placed on the correct side of the entrance?

It should be placed on the other side, in order to create maximum publicity.

13.          Which of the previous two options is preferable?

It is preferable to create maximum publicity by using the other side of the entrance, rather than by placing the menorah higher. Accordingly, it is better to place the menorah on the less preferred side of the door below ten tefachim (the ideal height), than to place it on the preferred side of the door above ten tefachim (not the ideal height). This is assuming that the publicity is equal in both positions. However, if more publicity can be gained by placing the menorah higher, this should be done.

14.          What if the menorah will not be seen at all from the street if placed next to the door?

According to most opinions, the menorah should be lit inside the house by a window that can be seen from the street

15.          What if more people will see the menorah by a window than by the door?

Opinions differ regarding the preferred position.

Apartment Buildings

16.          Where should one light when living in an apartment building?

This depends on the two opinions mentioned earlier.

•             According to the first opinion, the menorah should be lit as follows:

•             If the entrance to the garden or yard qualifies (see question ‎58), it should be lit there.

•             If the entrance does not qualify, it should be lit outside the door of the apartment building.

•             If the door of the building does not face the street, it should be lit inside the house by a window that faces the street.

•             According to the second opinion, the menorah should be lit as follows:

•             If it will be seen from the street when lit outside the door of his apartment, it should be lit there.

•             If not, it should be lit inside the house by a window that faces the street.

17.          May one light the menorah in the stairway outside the door of the apartment?

Ideally, the menorah should be seen by people walking through the street, rather than by those living in the building. Therefore, the menorah should only be lit in the stairway when there is no other alternative.

18.          If many people light by an outside entrance how will passers-by 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.

Lighting by a Window

20.          When lighting by a window, which should one choose?

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. Accordingly, 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.

21.          Is the window height significant?

If possible, the flame should be within ten tefachim of the floor of the house. If the menorah cannot be seen easily from the street at this height, it should be placed higher

22.          What if one lives on a high floor?

•             The menorah should be lit by the window if the flame is less than twenty amos above the street.

•             If the flame is more than twenty amos above the street, the menorah may be lit there according to many opinions. Although the menorah cannot be seen easily from the street at this height, it is still visible to people in the house, in nearby buildings, and occasionally to people in the street. According to other opinions, this is not a valid position and the menorah should be lit outside the door of the house or building.

23.          What if the apartment is below street level?

The menorah may be lit by a window that can be seen from the street, even if the flames are more than twenty amos below street level.

24.          Where by the window should one place the menorah?

According to some opinions, one should place it 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 fuzzy from the street and the number of lights is unclear.

26.          May several people light by the same window?

•             If several suitable windows are available, it is preferable for each person to light by a different one.

•             If only one window is available, the menorahs should be separated as much as possible, so that one can easily see the number of lights in each menorah. This can also be achieved by placing one menorah higher than another.

27.          What if a person has neither a door nor a window that can be seen from the street?

This depends on the two opinions mentioned earlier.

•             According to the first opinion, the menorah should be lit by the door of the apartment building.

•             According to the second opinion, the menorah should be lit outside the door of the apartment. If other people do not pass by this door, he should light inside the house.

28.          Where is the correct place when lighting in the house?

On the left side of the doorway leading into the room that is most used during the evening.

Summary for Apartment Buildings

First Opinion Second Opinion
First

Option

In the street by the entrance to the garden or yard. By the door of the apartment if it faces the street.
Second Option By the door of the building if it faces the street. By a window facing a street.
Third Option By a window facing a street. By the door of the apartment, even if not facing a street.
Fourth Option By the door of the building, even if not facing a street. Inside the house.

29.          Where should a yeshiva student light?

•             If he sleeps in the yeshiva,  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 yeshiva.

30.          Where in the yeshiva should he light?

•             If he sleeps in the yeshiva, there are three options:

•             According to many opinions, he should light in his bedroom, 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 in the bedroom.

•             According to others, he should 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 yeshiva dormitory, or by the entrance to the yard.

•             If he sleeps at home, he should follow the second option.

In any event, students must obtain permission from the staff before lighting anywhere in the yeshiva, in order to avoid any inconvenience or risk of fire, ח”ו.

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