02. Private Homes

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The Sages’ enactment seems to indicate that in the past there was no concern that the wind would blow out the Ĥanuka candles that were lit at the entrance to the home. Homes were built close together, many cities and courtyards were enclosed by a wall, and there were no strong winds blowing between the homes. Therefore, evidently, it was possible to light candles outside entranceways and courtyards without worrying that the candles would blow out. Today, though, when one lights candles outside, the wind usually blows them out. The only way to protect the candles is to light them in a glass box, like an aquarium.

However, the Sages never required people to buy glass boxes in order to fulfill the mitzva of lighting Ĥanuka candles. Therefore, one who does not wish to buy a glass box may light the candles inside his home. If he lights in a window facing the street, he beautifies the mitzva of publicizing the miracle to the same degree as one who lights in the entranceway, though he does not further beautify the mitzva by lighting on the left side of the entranceway and thus surrounding himself with mitzvot (the mezuza on the right and the candles on the left). Those who wish to beautify the mitzva to the greatest extent should buy a glass box and light outside the entranceway of the house on the left side. If several family members are lighting, as is the Ashkenazic custom (above, 12:3-4), they should make sure that every menora appears distinct, so that it is clear how many candles are lit on each day of Ĥanuka. Another possibility is for the other household members to light inside the home, at the window.[1]

In the past, many homes had walled courtyards, and people would exit to the street through a gate in the wall. In such a case, the courtyard was considered an extension of the home and the correct place to light was in the entranceway of the courtyard. In contrast, today’s front yards are not walled, and therefore the correct place to light is at the entranceway to the home itself.[2]

In some homes, the entranceway is not clearly visible to many people on the street, while lighting in the window would be more clearly visible from the street. Some maintain that, in such a case, it is still preferable to light in the entranceway, as doing so follows the Sages’ original enactment, so that one who enters the home will be surrounded by mitzvot. Others maintain that lighting in the window is preferable in this case, since the primary reason for the enactment is to publicize the miracle, and more people will see the candles if they are lit in the window. In practice, it seems that the mitzva is rendered more beautiful when one lights in the window. However, there is also an advantage to lighting in the entranceway.[3]


[1]. She’elat Yaavetz 1:149 states that it is preferable to light inside a glass box, and many Jerusalem residents have followed this practice. R. Zvi Pesaĥ Frank discusses this practice in Mikra’ei Kodesh §§16-17. However, even according to these authorities, there is no obligation to buy a glass box. ahs 671:24 states this explicitly, adding that lighting in a glass box makes the candles less visible (apparently glass at that time was not as transparent as it is today), and therefore it is customary to light inside, on the left side of the doorway.

We have already seen in Shabbat 21b that when it was dangerous to light outside, people lit on a table inside. However, even when the danger subsided, people continued lighting inside, to the left of the doorway. Thus states Rema 671:7. Or Zaru’a expresses surprise that once the danger had passed people did not go back to lighting outside. Itur explains that once people began lighting inside, the custom remained even after the danger had passed. Some continue this practice to the present time (Minĥat Yitzĥak 6:66; Yemei Ha-Ĥanuka 3:2; Piskei Teshuvot 671 n. 11). See also Torat Ha-mo’adim 3:4 which states that this is the custom of most Sephardic communities. Nevertheless, the most straightforward understanding of the Gemara and the Rishonim is that it is preferable to light outside the doorway of the home, or in a window facing the street. Both these options are supported by the Gemara in Shabbat 21b, and they both serve to publicize the miracle more effectively.

[2]. The Rishonim disagree where one should light if he lives in a house with a front yard. According to Rashi, Ran, and others, he should light at the entranceway of the house. According to Tosafot, Rashba, and others, he should light at the entranceway of the yard. sa 671:5 rules in accordance with Tosafot without even mentioning Rashi’s position, to the surprise of ahs 671:20. (This topic is more complex than it seems; see Berur Halakha on Shabbat 21b and Torat Ha-mo’adim 3:2.) The accepted ruling in this case follows Tosafot’s position, as mb and bhl state. However, in practice, nowadays one should almost never light at the entranceway of the yard. There are a number of reasons for this: a) Today’s yards are usually not enclosed by a fence or gate. b) Some maintain that if an entranceway does not require a mezuza (such as if it does not have a lintel), one should not light there. (This is implied by Rabbeinu Yeruĥam, as cited in the end of Darkhei Moshe §671). c) Ĥazon Ish maintains that since today’s yards do not function as extensions of the home (as they are not used for laundering, cooking, and similar activities), one who lights Ĥanuka candles in the entranceway of such a courtyard has not fulfilled his obligation to light in his home. (See Az Nidberu 5:39.)

Nevertheless, some contemporary poskim rule that one should light candles at the entranceway of one’s yard. In any case, since in practice everyone agrees that lighting in the entranceway of the house fulfills the obligation, there is no reason to court uncertainty by lighting at the entrance of the yard.

The Sages state that if one’s home has two entrances on different sides, he should light at both entrances, so that household members are not suspected of neglecting the mitzva (Shabbat 23a; sa 671:8). However, as we saw in the previous note, nowadays many people light inside. Therefore, it is not necessary to light at both entrances, because there is no concern that neglecting to do so will arouse suspicion. A number of Rishonim write this, as do many Aĥaronim including Rema 671:8.

[3]. If the entranceway of the home is on the side and not so visible from the street, it would seem preferable to light in a window facing the street because the rules concerning where to light revolve around the fundamental value of publicizing the miracle (sht 671:30; Igrot Moshe, oĥ 4:125). Some maintain that lighting to the left of the doorway is still the best option, as being surrounded by mitzvot has kabbalistic significance. In my humble opinion, publicizing the miracle takes precedence. Even if the window facing the street is over ten tefaĥim high, it is still preferable to light there in order to publicize the miracle (see n. 5 below).

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