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Traditional Placement of the Menorah for Hanukkah Celebrations

There is more than one traditional placement of the menorah during the Hanukkah celebrations. People often place it in a doorway, on a window sill or even the dining room table.

According to the Hallacah (Jewish law) the menorah of Hanukkah should be placed where it is light that can be enjoyed. It must be enjoyed for its beauty though and not be a source of light. Another function of the Hanukkah menorah is that it should seen by passersby to remind people of the miracle of Hanukkah.

The miracle of Hanukkah refers back to the time when Israel was under occupation by the Greek empire. A small group of Jews, under the leadership of Judah the Maccabiah, managed to drive out the large army. When they came to rededicate the Temple, only one container of pure oil was found to light the menorah. Miraculously the oil burnt for eight days and that was enough to make and bring fresh oil to the Temple.

The menorah is lit every Hanukkah to remind Jews that the few can overcome the majority. God makes miracles happen like the oil that lasted for eight days. Also the light of one candle can chase away the forces of the dark, or the evil.

So where exactly is the placement for the Menorah for Hanukkah celebrations? The Gemara, the Babylonian Talmud states that, “Hanukkah lights should be placed outside the doorway of the house. If the person does not live on the ground floor, he places the menorah next to a window facing the street. In a time of danger, placing it on the table will suffice.” (Shabbos 21b)

In Israel the menorah is either placed in the window sill or at the entrance of the house to make it as visible as possible. Placing the menorah on the opposite of the mezzuza at the entrance of the house ensures that a person entering the house is surrounded by mitzot (good deeds). In the old City of Jerusalem menorah “containers” can be found on the side of buildings. They look like small  aquariums with glass doors.

Religious neighborhoods like Bnei Brak and or Mea Shearim in Jerusalem are especially beautiful during Hanukkah since the religious Jews go out of their way to make the Hanukkah menorah as visible as possible to passersby. For Jews living outside of Israel the custom developed to place the menorah inside the house, on the dining room table.

Displaying the menorah openly could have lead to harassment by gentiles. There may not be harassment anymore, but still the custom is kept. People living in Israel who cannot place the menorah in the doorway, or in the window sill for practical reasons must place the menorah in the dining room. For example there are small children in the house that can grab at the menorah.

Seeing the menorah lit during Hanukkah is a wonderful experience. There may be a lot of rules regarding the exact placement of the menorah, but it is truly a sight to behold. Happy Hanukkah.

Resources: http://www.neveh.org/chanukah