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Chanukah Dedicated Home

“Ner ish uveiso” – Meseches Shabbos 24a

The Talmud records that the basic mitzvah of Chanukah lighting is, “ner ish uveiso” – “a candle per household”. Many halachic authorities understand this to mean that the obligation is not upon each individual, rather upon each household. This has great halachic consequences, for it requires only that a light be lit in the home in order for each household member to be discharged of his/her obligation, and not an active declaration from each member of the household appointing the individual who is lighting to be his/her agent. Why does the lighting of Chanukah candles differ from most mitzvos which place the obligation upon the individual?

The Talmud states that the optimal location for the Menorah is on the left side of the door, opposite the Mezuzah, so that the entrance will be surrounded with mitzvos. How does this express the miracle of Chanukah?

Reflection upon the decrees imposed by the Greeks will shed light as to the Sages’ mindset when formulating the requirement on Chanukah to light. The Midrash teaches that the Greeks forbade the Jews to place locks and bolts upon the doors of their homes, thereby depriving them of their privacy and dignity. The Greeks also forbade Jewish women from going to the mikvah, and finally decreed that all brides were required to be intimate with the local Greek governor prior to spending their wedding night with their new husbands. Clearly, it was the Greek intent to destroy the sanctity of the Jewish home.

The miracle of Chanukah was not only the sanctification and rededication of our Temple, but even more importantly, the sanctification and rededication of our homes. The victory of the Maccabees allowed us to bring holiness and boundaries back into our households. Lighting the Menorah opposite the Mezuzah, thereby surrounding our doorway, is an expression of this notion. This also explains why the requirement is incumbent upon the home and not the individual.

By Rabbi Mordechai Shifman

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