The Private and Public Menorah

The Private and Public Menorah

The Private and Public Menorah The Private and Public Menorah
by Rabbi Zave Rudman



One of the more unusual Halachos of Chanukah is the lighting of the Menorah outside at the entrance to the Reshua HaRabim- public space. This is obviously a function of the requirement of Pirsumei Nisa- to publicize the miracle, but there might be another aspect to his that we can define.

If we look at one of the differences between Yakov and Eisav, we see that Eisav is a man of the field, a person who lives his life in the public domain. Yakov on the other hand is a Yosheiv Ohalim, one who dwells in a tent, living his life in the private space. In the writings of the ARIZ”L and the GR”A the differentiation between Rehsus HaRabim and Reshus HaYachid is very clearly defined. The Rehsus HaRabim is a place of separation and distance from Kedusha. Reshus HaYachid on the other hand is the place of clarified Kedusha. This differentiation is discussed in many ways in the division of spaces in the Halachos of Shabbos. Therefore, Yakov and his descendants are the people who are meant to live their lives in the private space of Reshus HaYachid, in the tent; whereas Eisav lives his life in the public domain, in the fields.

Based on this it is difficult to understand why we specifically light the Menorah in the Reshus HaRabim? There is another issue to raise, which is why the battle against the Greeks is described in Al HaNissim as “Taking revenge”? Why is the lighting of the Menorah a revenge against the Greeks?

This can be understood by looking at a Mishnah that describes what the Greeks did when they conquered the Bais HaMikdosh. In addition to defiling the oil, they broke thirteen openings in the Soreg. That was a divider that delineated till where non-Jews were permitted to go in the Bais HaMikdsoh. They opened this barrier up, and when the Chashmonaim rededicated the Bais HaMikdsoh, they rebuilt the openings and instituted that whenever you walked by te repaired breaches, you bowed down and praised HaShem that the barrier was restored.

The Sfas Emes explains that there is a connection between this breaking of the barrier and the lighting outside. The Greeks goal in breaking this barrier was not just to allow them entrance to the Bais HaMikdsoh, but to open the most private Reshus HaYachid place in the world to Reshus HaRabim, into the public space. Their goal was actually parallel to the approach of Eisav, which was to remove from the world the idea of Yosheiv Ohalim the sense of a private place and make the entire world a Sadeh, a Reshus HaRabim.

Therefore, explains the Sfas Emes, that the revenge against this plan was to place the Menorah in the entrance to the Reshus HaRabim. This is not only to light up the Reshus HaRabim, but to turn the Reshus HaRabim in a certain sense into Rehsu HaYachid and that is the sweetest revenge of all.

This idea is also found in the description of the subjugation of the Jews in the time of the Greeks. In a Sefer called Midrash Konen, it describes how the Greeks wanted to cause them to reject HaShem and worship idols. They decreed that the Jews were not pemitted to have doors to their homes in order that the Jews should have no honor or Tznius. As a result there was no privacy or family life, and any Greek could enter any Jews home at any time. The Jews called out to HaShem and asked why were we punished with such an unusual decree? HaShem responded since you did not keep the Mitzvah of Mezuzah, your doors were removed. But, as a result of doing Teshuva, we received not only the right to return our Mezuzah, but a new counterpart to the Mezuzah, the Menorah. In the Sefer of the Geonim the Halachos Gedolos, we are taught that the proper place to for the Menorah is opposite the Mezuzah. There are many reasons for this, but here we see another one, since it is a result of Teshuva for the Mitzvah of Mezuzah we receive an added bonus. But we also see that the battle is about the privacy and separation of the Jewish home from the street, and its being protected from all the vandals that can enter from there.

This idea is crucial to our lives now. We live in a world where there are no boundaries. One’s life can be completely lived in the public sphere, where all the aspects ofour life which are meant to be private are public. Part of our Avodah for Chanukah is first to reclaim our Reshus HaYachid, and then to attempt to shine some of that light into Reshus HaRabim.