PROPER PLACEMENT OF THE CHANUKAH MENORAH
(Adapted and translated from Hilchos Chanuka by Rav Yoel Schwartz Shlit"a)
The Gemorah (Shabbos 21b) says "Chanuka 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." (Danger, includes all types of danger, including the possibility of gentiles taking the lights, or throwing stones at them.)
In chutz lo’oretz, the custom is to light indoors. According to many posskim the candles should be lit next to a window, while other posskim maintain that they should be lit inside the doorway. (If for any reason a person is lighting indoors, and not by a window or a door, he should preferably place the menorah in the dining room.)
In Eretz Yisroel (where there is no danger of harassment by gentiles) many people light outdoors. Some people have the custom to light indoors even in Eretz Yisroel. (This custom is defended by some posskim).
Lighting Outdoors: According to Rashi, when lighting outdoors, the candles should be lit next to the entrance to the house, not the entrance to the front yard. (Lighting at the entrance to a yard does not prove which family in the building lit the candles.) Tosfos and the Shulchan Oruch maintain that they should be lit at the entrance to the front yard, since this will be greater publicity for the miracle of Chanuka.
The Chazon Ish maintains that the ruling of Shulchan Oruch to light at the entrance to the front yard, applied only in those days when many of the household chores were performed in the yard. Nowadays the front yard no longer has the function of a house, but rather serves only as an entrance to the house. The Chazon Ish therefore maintains that the proper lighting place is at the entrance to the actual house. The Brisker Rav, on the other hand, disagrees, and maintains to light at the entrance to the front yard.
The stairway, also does not serve for any household functions, therefore according to the Chazon Ish, (in accordance with Rashi’s opinion) one should rather light in his house, next to a window. Some people though, have the custom to light at the entrance to the building which leads to the stairwell. If one has a porch with the doorway facing a street, he should light in the doorway.
Lighting Indoors: If the entrance to the house does not lead directly to a street, he should place the Chanuka menorah next to a window, facing the street. In the event that the window is higher than twenty cubits from the street, the lights will not be visible to the people walking on the street. Therefore, according to some posskim, the most preferable location to light is on the left side of the doorway. This is in compliance with Chazal’s statement, that the mezuzah should be on the right, and the Chanuka candles on the left. According to other posskim, the menorah should nevertheless be placed next to a window, since the lights will be visible to people living in nearby apartments on the same floor. If many people pass by the outside entrance to the apartment, (in the stairwell) the proper procedure would be to place the menorah just outside the entrance to the apartment. The opinion of one of the great posskim of Yerushalayim, is to light at the entrance to the building facing the street. (It would also be proper to light a menorah in the house, in accordance with the opinion of the Chazon Ish.)
When lighting next to a window one should prefer that window most visible to the street, regardless of whether it is a bedroom or living room window.
When lighting on a porch, if the doorway is facing the street, the menorah should be lit in a glass case outside the doorway. (If the candles are visible through the door (e.g. a glass pane in the door), he may light them indoors.)
If the doorway is not facing the street, he may place the menorah at the edge of the porch facing the street, even if it is far from the doorway, (since it is a private porch all people passing by will know which house lit these lights).
Height of the Menorah:
NOTE: The term height mentioned in the ensuing paragraphs refers to the height of the flame, not the height of the actual menorah.
The most preferable height for the menorah, is no lower than three handbreadths off the ground and no higher than ten, (since this is not the height where candles are usually placed, it’ll be obvious to all that the purpose of these candles is for the mitzvah of Chanukah.
If the menorah is going to be placed next to a window, and all windows facing the street are higher than ten handbreadths off the ground, the menorah should nevertheless be placed next to the window. The same rule applies if all windows facing the street are less than three handbreadths off the ground.
The lights are not visible if they are higher than twenty cubits. Therefore, if all the windows facing the street are higher than twenty cubits from the street, the menorah should not be placed next to the window. When lighting in a doorway, the menorah should be placed on the left side of the doorway, so that when a person enters the doorway he is surrounded by mitzvos, (mezuza on the right side and the Chanuka lights on the left). (The ‘left side’ means anywhere between the middle of the doorway and the left doorpost.) If for some reason there is no mezuza on the doorpost, the menorah should be placed on the right side.
When lighting next to a window, the menorah should be placed on the right side of the window. As mentioned above, when lighting indoors the most preferable location for the menorah is in the dining room. If however one lit the menorah in any other room, he has fulfilled the mitzvah.
A person who lives in two houses, must light in both of them, lest he be suspected of not fulfilling his obligation of kindling Chanuka lights. The main lighting place is the house where he eats. He should light there with a brocha, and then light at the place where he sleeps without a brocha.
The problem of suspicion applies only when lighting outdoors, and the lack of Chanuka lights will be visible to all. When lighting indoors, there is no problem of suspicion, and therefore there is no need to light where he sleeps.
Where should a yeshivah student who eats in the yeshivah dining room and sleeps in the dormitory, light the menorah? According to the Chazon Ish the dining room is considered the main dwelling place and the menorah should be placed there. According to the Igros Moshe, the sleeping place is the main dwelling point, and that is where the menorah should be placed. Some Yeshivah students have the custom to eat one or two meals daily in their dormitory room throughout the entire Chanuka. This way they can light the menorah in their room according to all opinions.
The custom in Ashkenazi yeshivos is for each person to light an individual menorah at their main dwelling point (dining room or dormitory, depending on the opinions mentioned above) and to light one menorah for everyone at the other location. (Some also participate in the purchasing of oil and wicks for the second menorah, which is lit after everyone lit his own menorah at the main location.)
A Yeshivah student, who eats at the yeshivah dining room, but sleeps at home, should kindle Chanuka lights at home. (Seemingly according to the Chazon Ish, he should light in the yeshivah dining room.) It would be preferable for him to eat at least one meal daily at home, throughout the entire Chanukah. If having to go home in order to light would involve bitul Torah, the Minchas Yitzchak permits him to light at the yeshivah.
Lighting the menorah in a shule: The custom is to place the shule menorah in a high spot. The custom is to place the menorah near the south wall, as was the case with the menorah in the Beis Hamikdosh. A space should be left between the menorah and the wall. The person lighting the menorah should be with his back to the south wall and facing the menorah. The menorah should be lit from left to right, with the right light, the closest one to the aron kodesh, which is on the eastern wall. There are various customs regarding the positioning and placement of the shule menorah and the order of lighting. All communities should follow their respective customs.