Light by the Doorway - Miracles of Modesty
by Rabbi Yehudah Prero
The ritual practice most popularly associated with the holiday of Chanukah is
probably the lighting of the Menorah. The eight-branched candelabra recalls
how the Chashmonaim, as part of their rededication of the Bais Hamikdosh, the
Holy Temple, were miraculously enabled to light the Menorah there and have it
stay lit for eight days, the time it took to procure the needed new and pure
By Chanukah, as with other holidays in which we celebrate miraculous
happenings, we are told that we should perform our commemoration in a way
that publicizes the miracle that occurred. Specifically, the Shulchan Aruch
states (Orech Chayim 671:5) "The Chanukah lights one should place by the
doorway nearest the public thoroughfare outdoors: if the house opens
directly into the public thoroughfare he should place it by its doorway,
and if there is a courtyard in front of the house, one places it by the door of
the courtyard. The Chasam Sofer notes that the fashion in which the miracle
of Chanukah is publicized differs from that of other holidays. On Purim, the
Megilla is read, but there is no specific commandment to do such in any
specific place. However, we see a stress on lighting the Chanukah Menorah by
the doorway of the house, the doorway of the courtyard. A specific place,
namely the doorway, is singled out as the optimal location for the lighting
ofthe Chanukah Menorah.
"The mandrakes give forth fragrance, and at our doors are all kinds of
precious fruits . .. (Shir HaShirim 7:14)" Raba made the following
exposition: The Scriptural text "The mandrakes give forth fragrance is an
allusion to the young men of Israel who never felt the taste of sin; and
our doors are all manner of precious fruits is an allusion to the daughters
of Israel who tell their husbands about their doors. Another reading: Who
close their doors for their husbands." (Yevamos 63b)
The Talmud explains that when the verse refers to the "precious fruits at
our doors,"it is describing the modesty of the women of the nation of
Israel. According to one explanation, the women strictly and faithfully
adhere to the laws of family purity, and inform their husbands of the times
become ritually unclean and when they become clean once again, hence, they
"tell their husbands about their doors." According to another
explanation,the women of the nation of Israel are deeply devoted to family
life and their spouses, hence, they "close their doors for their husbands."
The days of Greek persecution were trying ones for the nation of Israel.
Women were constantly being put in positions in which compromising the
sanctity of marriage was demanded of them. They were prohibited from
observing those rituals that were part and parcel of Jewish religious life.
Yet, they remained dedicated to the principles by which women in the nation
of Israel had always lived, and they refused to give in to the oppressors and
break down the barriers of modesty. They were steadfast in their dedication
to family values and maintaining the laws of family purity under the harshest
of conditions. For this reason, the Chasam Sofer writes, women were central
to the miracle of Chanukah. Because the women fought against Greek
persecution with their heart and souls, a woman was able to fight against a
Greek official and kill him. The primary role of women to the victory
Chanukah celebrates came in the merit of the spiritual battle waged by the
Women, and their devotion to modesty, were euphemistically referred to by the
term "doorway" in Shir HaShirim. Because women were integral to the miracle
of Chanukah, we are told to place the Chanukah Menorah by the doorway. Not in
a place where people will see it. Not in a place where it sheds the most
light. But in the doorway. By doing such, we recall the boldness of the women
of the nation of Israel. We recall their devotion and dedication to the
sanctity of family and purity. We recall their commitment to perpetuating
Jewish spiritual life. When we light the Menorah, we publicize that the
miracle of Chanukah occurred in the merit of the holy doorways of Israel.
Check out all of the posts on Chanukah. Head over to
http://www.torah.org/learning/yomtov/ to access the YomTov Page.
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For questions, comments, and topic requests, please write to Rabbi Yehudah Prero.