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Why is the Chanukah Menorah lit in the synagogue?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

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In days bygone, the synagogue was the center of the Jewish community. Morning and evening, the entire community would gather there to offer prayers to their Creator. Since the essence of the Menorah is Pirsumai Nissa (publicizing the miracle), the rabbis instituted that the menorah should receive maximum exposure by being lit in every synagogue.

Itinerant travelers and beggars who would sleep in the synagogues were another reason for the rabbis establishing this custom. Everyone is obligated to have a Menorah kindled in their home, and the synagogue served as the home of many Jews who ended up on the opposite end of the wheel of fortune.

the rabbis instituted that the menorah should receive maximum exposure by being lit in every synagogue
The kindling of the Menorah in the synagogue does not absolve any of those present from lighting the Menorah in their own home. In fact, even the one who kindles the Menorah--and chants the blessings aloud--must go home, kindle the menorah, and recite the blessings again in his own home.

The Menorah in the synagogue is lit between Minchah and Maariv. The Menorah in the synagogue is placed next to the southern wall of the sanctuary. After all, every synagogue is a "Minor Holy Temple", and the Menorah in the Temple was on the southern side of the Temple sanctuary. Also, it is customary in many synagogues to relight the candles of the Menorah in the morning, reminding the morning worshipers once again of the great Chanukah miracles.1

Footnotes

  • 1. Sources: Code of Jewish Law, Orach Chaim 671:7 .

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RELATED CATEGORIES

Mitzvot » Prayer » Synagogue
Holidays » Chanukah » The Laws

Chanukah
An eight day mid-winter holiday marking: 1) The miraculous defeat of the mighty Syrian-Greek armies by the undermanned Maccabis in the year 140 BCE. 2) Upon their victory, the oil in the Menorah, sufficient fuel for one night only, burned for eight days and nights.
Maariv
Evening prayer service. One of the three prayers a Jew is obligated to pray every day.
Menorah
Candelabra. Usually a reference to the nine-branched candelabra kindled on the holiday of Chanukah.
Minchah
Afternoon prayer service. One of the three prayers a Jew is obligated to pray every day.
Temple
1. Usually a reference to the Holy Temple which was/will be situated in Jerusalem. 1st Temple was built in 825 BCE and was destroyed in 423 BCE. The 2nd Temple was built in 350 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE. The 3rd Temple will be built by the Messiah. 2. A synagogue.