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Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Right Way to Light the Menorah

When it comes to lighting the Menorah, there are several common scenarios that can cause confusion. I’d like to discuss some of these situations.

Where to Light When Attending a Chanukah Party

Often, one attends a Chanukah party at which the host lights the Menorah. The correct thing for the individual guests at the party to do would be to light the Menorah at home, preferably at the correct time (50 minutes after sunset in the US) and then go to the party. If they have to leave earlier, then they should light at home with a bracha when they get back, as long as it isn’t too late – there are still people outside.  If it will be too late then they should light the Menorah right before they leave the house, and make sure they will last until 80 minutes after sunset.

Someone Who Lives In an Apartment Building

A little background is necessary. Ideally the Menorah should be placed outside on the street for maximum Pirsuma Nisa (publication of the miracle). This is still done in Israel, but outside of Israel the minhag is to place the Menorah indoors. The Rema explains that the proper place indoors is by the door opposite the Mezuzah so that one is surrounded by Mitzvos. However, the Magen Avrohom and others say that if one has a window that faces a public thoroughfare one should place the Menorah in the window.

The upper height limit for placement of the Menorah outside or in the window is usually 20 amos or 35 ½ feet high. This is because that is the highest the eye naturally sees. Therefore if the window of the apartment is less than 35½ feet from ground level and opens to the street, he should place his Menorah in the window.  If however he lives on a higher floor, then it gets a little complicated. Rav Moshe Feinstein and the Shevet Halevi say that if there is another building ‘across the way’ that can see your window then you should light in the window because you have Pirsuma Nisa for them. Rav Moshe Shternbuch and Rav Elyashiv argue and say that the concept of Pirsuma Nisa is only applicable for the general populace in the street, not for the guy across the street.
So, according to the latter opinion, or in a case where there is no mile high neighbors who would be able to see into your window, then we go back to the Rema and should light by the door. There is however a catch – the Magen Avraham explains that the Rema isn’t telling us that the minhag is to light by the door, he’s telling us the minhag should be to light by the door. Rav Moshe Feinstein explains that the idea being surrounded by mitzvos at the door alone is not a strong reasoning. When one was lighting by the door anyway because he was lighting outside, then we say that he should place the Menorah opposite the Mezuzah. If however he wasn’t lighting outside then the Minhag never was to light by an interior door to be surrounded by Mitzvos. The Rema is telling us that those who are careful in Mitzvos should do so, but it’s not the Minhag.
The upshot is, if you have a window that opens to the street and is lower than 35 ½ feet, or if you have a neighboring building with apartments at your level, you should put your Menorah in the window. If you are otherwise situated, perhaps you should light by the door according to the Rema, but the prevalent Minhag is to lght in the window anyway.

Posted on 12/18 at 11:44 AM • Permalink
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Meet Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber

Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch HaberRabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber is sought after by all who know him for his Halachic and practical advice. His keen ability to put complicated matters into a digestible perspective coupled with his ability to get the facts, make him the perfect blogger to help us all “Do It Right”.

A native of Buffalo, NY, Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber spent his childhood globetrotting with his family. His pioneering spirit first surfaced in Melbourne, Australia, where he was excited to be a member of the opening class of Mesivta Bnei Torah. From Australia the Haber family settled down in Monsey, NY. Ever the maverick, Tzvi promptly left home to study in Yeshiva Ohr Hameir in Peekskill, where he became a mainstay of the Yeshiva, and inspired his younger brothers as well as several friends from the Mesivta in Melbourne to follow him. He then joined his chaburah in Jerusalem, first at the Mir Yeshiva and then at the Bais Medrash of Rav Dovid Soloveitchik, a senior scion of the famed Brisk dynasty. As his globetrotting family returned to Jerusalem, Tzvi returned to the US, to freeze in the famed, yet comparatively chilled Beth Medrash Govoha of Lakewood.

 In 2004 he met his wife, Suzanne Schor, a native of the warmer Los Angeles climate, and the couple settled in Lakewood, where he focused his pioneering and independent strengths on the study of Halacha, or Jewish law. His innovative spirit and innate ability to help others seeking to clarify the finer points of Judaism and integrate them into their daily lives inspired his decision to commute daily from Lakewood to the Lower East Side of Manhattan in order to bask in the day to day exposure to the world renowned Posek, HaRav David Feinstein. The daily commute was more than compensated for when he received Semicha from Rav Feinstien and the Kollel L’Torah U’lhorah (a division of Mesivta Tifereth Jerusalem) in Tamuz 5768, June 2008.

In August 2009, the Habers moved west, heading toward Los Angeles where Rabbi Haber joined the LINK-LA Kollel. After being an active member of the Kollel for several years, he joined the business world, however he is still actively involved in teaching and learning in LA.

Actively involved in all aspects of TorahLab, Tzvi has taken upon himself a quasi-role as administrator of quality control and has effectively improved and upgraded many of the smaller yet vital details involved in our site. His advice is eagerly sought and gracefully given.

Rabbi Haber is now living in the La Brea section of Los Angeles with his wonderful family. He can be contacted at