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Shabbat Parashat Vayeishev |5769

Where should one light the chanukiya

Ask the Rabbi

Question: Should I light my chanukiya inside or outside?


Answer: [We share this response with the public hesitantly because it is far from clear that one who strives to be machmir would be acting appropriately to change his minhag. However, we do not want to hide our eyes from a topic that is already discussed publicly.]

Two pertinent points are clear. First, the standard Talmudic practice was to light chanukiyot outside (Shabbat 21b). (If one lived in a attic, he puts it in the window facing the street.) Second, the longstanding practice in most Jewish communities has been to light inside (see Ohr Zarua, II, 323:2; Rama, Orach Chayim 671:7). How do we explain this and decide how to act nowadays?

The gemara (ibid.) says that in a time of danger, one lights on his table. The Itur says that once the practice developed, based on danger, to light inside, the practice continued. Many say (ibid.; see Mikraei Kodesh (Frank), Chanuka 16) that it is better to light outside if possible (Igrot Moshe, OC IV 125) assumed that it was not possible in the US in 1975). Rav Shternbach (Moadim U’zemanim II, 140) strengthens the impact of the historical danger on proper practice. He suggests that when there is danger to some people, everyone should light inside because we don’t want people taking risks under pressure to keep up with other Jew’s who are able to light outside.

Other historical explanations are given. The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 671:24) suggests that since Jews moved to windy, rainy places and the “aquariums” (glass encasements) needed to protect the chanukiya detract from the light’s visibility and are not always feasible or affordable, the minhag became to light indoors. The assumption that things have changed markedly in this regard, which is far from simple, would indicate a difference between Israel and other places.

It would still seem that those who can light outside in aquariums should do so. However, other factors should be considered. At the time we light the chanukiya, it should be able to burn for a half hour (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 675:2). If people open the side of the aquarium to light and need to close it quickly before the wind blows out the candles, shouldn’t this be considered a situation that the chanukiya, as lit, would not last a half hour? Although there are answers to this question (see Mikraei Kodesh ibid. 17), some say that if one cannot light the candles in a manner that keeps the wind out from the outset, it is better to light inside (see Torat Hamoadim, Chanuka 3:3).

Another problem with lighting outside, especially regarding those who live in apartment buildings, is that it is not always clear where one should light. Is it at the opening of one’s apartment to the stairwell, or at the opening of the building, or at the edge of the sidewalk of the street, etc.? Is living on a higher floor considered like being in an attic? (See Torat Hamoadim ibid.:2). While halachic research can give reasonable answers to most cases, it may be another reason to continue lighting inside as we did growing up. Especially if we light in the window facing the street (see Igrot Moshe, OC IV, 125, based on Magen Avraham 671:8), publicizing the miracle is performed well (on lower floors) and the chumra of lighting outside may be a dubious gain.

We would summarize as follows. There is an apparent gain in lighting outside. However, since there are strong reasons to not require it, we would discourage one from doing so in a place where this is not an accepted practice or could cause vandalism or anti-Semitism. In a place where both practices are prevalent (especially certain communities in Israel), one who can light outside in a manner that does not have significant doubts might prefer to do so but should not feel obligated to change his former family practice.

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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated to the memory of

R ' Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga  Brachfeld


Hemdat Yamim is endowed by Les & Ethel Sutker of Chicago, Illinois in loving memory of
Max and Mary Sutker

and Louis and Lillian Klein, z”l.

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