Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim

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Rabbi Jablinowitz

The Gemara in Shabbos 21B teaches that we light the Chanukah candles outside the doorway of our homes facing reshus harabim, the public domain. Rashi explains that the reason for this is Pisumei Nisa, publicizing the miracle of Chanukah. By lighting at the entrance which faces the public, we maximize the awareness of the miracle.

There are other mitzvoth which are performed with an eye towards publicizing the miracle, Pirsumei Nisa. When we drink four cups of wine we are publicizing the miracle of Yetzias Mitzrayim. The Maggid Mishnah (Hilchos Chanukah, Chapter 4, Halacha 12) learns that the source for the Halacha of the Rambam that one needs to even sell the shirt off his back to acquire candles for Chanukah if necessary is learned from the four cups of wine. Just as for the four cups of wine, which is for Pirsumei Nisa, one must perform the mitzvah even at the expense of selling his clothes, so too Ner Chanukah, which is also for Pirsumei Nisa. When we read Megillas Esther on Purim, we are publicizing the miracle of our deliverance from the decree of Haman on Purim.

Yet these mitzvoth are performed in the privacy of our home or in shul. The only mitzvah where we actually go out into the street is Chanukah; either to face the street or to literally stand outside in the street when lighting the candles. Why do we go to such extremes on Chanukah?

When the Greeks entered the Beis Hamikdash and defiled it, they were acting with terrible arrogance and impunity. As we say in Maoz Tzur, U’Fartzu Chomos Migdalai, they broke through barriers and borders of holiness. They broke into the most holy place of the Jews, the place of intimacy between Hashem and His people, and treated it like the street. They attempted to turn the reshus hayachid into reshus harabim.

The Sfas Emes explains in the name of the Chidushei HaRim that this is the reason we go to such extremes when publicizing the miracle of Chanukah. We reverse the distortion of the Greeks and their followers. We turn the reshus harabim into the reshus hayachid. We stand outside in the street next to the entrance to our homes and light the Chanukah candles. Just as Hashem performed a miracle on Chanukah and spread His kedushah outward, we extend the influence of the holiness of our homes and bring it to the outside world by lighting the lights of Chanukah.

One of the most horrible affects of the Greek culture in its manifestations today is the blurring of borders and the lack of distinctions between the private and the public, the intimate and the distant, and the holy and the profane. Our job as Jews is to heighten these distinctions and place borders around the walls of our homes, Chomos Migdalai. And then after those distinctions are clear, we spread the light of Chanukah outwards. As we say in Al Hanisim, Masartah Temei’im beyad Tehorim. Instead of having the outside world affect us, our purity and holiness vanquishes the impurities of the outside world. 

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