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Ah Freilichen Chanukah! But Aren’t We Still in Golus?

Thursday December 13, 2012 4:43 PM - 22 Comments

menorah1By S. Friedman, Matzav.com

Those who have been to Yerushalayim over Chanukah have seen the minhag that the people have, which is to light their menorahs outside their homes. The reason we do not do this in chutz la’aretz is because Chazal determined that in golus, amongst so many who hate us, we should not fuel the fire by conducting our celebrations so brazenly for all to see.

Chazal knew then what it meant to be in golus, and they had the foresight to know what golus would mean for future generations as well. Trying to reassess a situation that Chazal already dealt with - trying to update it, so to speak - is never a good idea.

A new “minhag” has spreading rapidly over the years during Chanukah, and that is the “minhag” to light a large public display menorah, and with that, an overall public celebration of the chag.  This “minhag” was never endorsed by our venerated gedolim and poskim and has no basis in halacha. Yet, some Yidden feel the need to be ostentatious about Chanukah, perhaps trying to match the popularity of other holidays being celebrated by other cultures during this time.

Here are some of the news headlines from last year associated with this trend:

Connecticut: Masked Men Disrupt Menorah Lighting With Nazi Flags, Obscenities

Chabad Shaliach Attacked During Candle Lighting in Vienna

Priest Leads Mob in Attacking Menorah in Moldova, Replaces it With Cross

Santa Cruz Requires Rabbi to Hire Guard to Watch Menorah

Vandals Damage Menorah On Long Island

Budapest: Neo-Nazis Disrupt Chanukah Event

Who needs this?  Why have some people amongst us gone to the trouble of attracting more attention and inevitably more hate to our little nation? Can’t we be happy in our own enclave observing the chag, like Sukkos or Shavuos, without trying to draw attention?

We live in the most tolerant country in history, but trying to push our practices into the public conscience will not promote tolerance, only resentment. The masses have their holidays that they celebrate, and probably don’t want another religion’s holiday to “crash the party.” Nothing is owed to us by the secular society we live in, and when you see a store hanging a menorah display in front, wishing their customers a “Happy Hanukah,” that is either a graceful gesture or good marketing. But for our own people to make public displays of menorah lighting, and in some circumstances even demanding it from the local authorities, is of poor taste, and, as shown in the above cases, poor judgment as well.

{S. Friedman-Matzav.com Newscenter}

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22 Responses to “Ah Freilichen Chanukah! But Aren’t We Still in Golus?”

1. Comment from nisht mitalemmen
Time December 13, 2012 at 4:47 PM

Absolutely.
Needed to be said.
Finally someone with some seichel says it!
A freilichen lichtigen Chanuka!

2. Comment from chochom
Time December 13, 2012 at 4:55 PM

Lighting a minorah in a place that is not al pi halacha is like trying to improve the mitzvah of Tfillin by adding tfillin on you foot.

Halivai we keep the halachos correctly.

3. Comment from asher
Time December 13, 2012 at 5:11 PM

I’m not a proponent of those who normally hold these public gatherings but I am aware of one prominent litvish posek who paskened I should go to one of these things at the expense of lighting at the proper time, in order to make our presence known to our politicians that attend. (I live out of town)
Also, isn’t the reason why we don’t light outside in ch”ul because the umos might steal the menorahs and it’s very cold?
l’myseh, even in ch”ul we still opt for the most noticeable window to make a pirsumey nisa

4. Comment from beethoven’s friend
Time December 13, 2012 at 5:41 PM

It is a positive experience to have a public menorah lighting in the cities and towns we enjoy as a people today. I am surprised this would be a contention among any higher learning jew, but in effect, the audacity of antisemitism is out there and the meer approval of a public menorah lighting sends a message that judaism is licensed to be a true friend of the town. It is on the other hand I think ostentatious to light a menorah that is larger than the size of the average man and for these supersized menorahs, I am aghast.

Perhaps the traditions are less than a conversation about right versus wrong than they are a conversation about galus and geulah. Either way, I assume that if we were in galus now and headed for geulah, we might not even know geulah when it comes. So lets pretent that G-d is on our side and bring honor to the light of Creation. Baruch Hashem.

5. Comment from E.
Time December 13, 2012 at 6:07 PM

I’ve never understood why people don’t drive around with four kosos on top of their cars on pesach, after all it’s persumei nisah.

6. Comment from Anonymous
Time December 13, 2012 at 6:42 PM

Here is where the absence of a real, live, leader and rebbe is really felt.

7. Comment from shortcut
Time December 13, 2012 at 7:13 PM

I thought it’s a mitzvah to acknowledge the nais. Why then do we place the lit menorahs in our windows?

8. Comment from Hirshu
Time December 13, 2012 at 7:29 PM

To #5 E.

Don’t give them any more crazy ideas.

9. Comment from tzippi
Time December 13, 2012 at 7:36 PM

To Asher (and everyone else): read Rabbi Shmuel Bloom’s column in the Chanukah Yated.

10. Comment from just one word to say you are a am haaratz go back to yeshivah
Time December 13, 2012 at 11:08 PM

just one word to say you are a am haaratz go back to yeshivah

11. Comment from if you dnt feel galus enough????
Time December 13, 2012 at 11:11 PM

Two years ago during Chanukah two of our Baltimore events turned out, for various reasons, to be disappointments for us. One, a menorah lighting at Johns Hopkins University and the other a parade of ‘Mitzvah Tanks,’ which was supposed to cover the downtown area. Rabbi Gopin (the Shliach at Hopkins) and I just accepted it for what it was and moved on to other programs and projects. After all, even Babe Ruth didn’t always hit home runs.

Not exactly so, as you will discover in the following story, which appeared in the Jewish Press.

Rabbi Shmuel Kaplan, Chabad of Maryland

Two years ago I was in Baltimore on business and happened to pass by the public menorah in front of Johns Hopkins University just as the first light was being lit. My eyes welled with tears. Although I was raised a secular Jew, my family has always celebrated Chanukah. To be away from my family that first night of the holiday felt cold and lonely. Now, seeing the lights of the first night’s flames of that big menorah, my heart lit up also and I felt the warmth of my people all around me. The next day I was walking by the waterfront and a young man in a black hat ran up to me and politely asked, “Excuse me, are you Jewish?” Somewhat surprised that anyone would care, I answered in the affirmative.

“Do you know that it’s the second night of Chanukah tonight?” he asked earnestly.

I nodded.

“Do you have a menorah?” he inquired, looking a bit anxious.

“No,” I replied.

“Do you want one?” he asked hopefully.

“Do you have one?” I asked, almost shouting with joy.

“Yes, I’ll get you one!” he replied, almost as excited as I.

He ran off and returned moments later with an entire menorah kit in a box: little brass candleholder, box full of the right number of candles, and complete instructions. Also a DVD full of Chanukah stories, how-tos, even recipes. I politely declined the offer of a donut (fried foods are traditional on Chanukah, but I have to pace myself) and raced off to my hotel room to examine the contents of the box and watch the DVD.

Childhood memories of Chanukah lights, my father telling stories of the Maccabees, the miracle of how one day’s worth of oil somehow lasted for eight days…it all came flooding back. I knew I had been given a gift that Chanukah in Baltimore: the gift of the return of Judaism to my life, and of my life to Judaism.

All this because of a menorah on the steps of a public institution. And all because I “happened” to be passing by that day and the flame of the menorah ignited the spark that had been sleeping in my Jewish heart for nearly 50 years.

When I returned to Seattle the following week, I called a rabbi for the first time in my life. I told him what the menorah in Baltimore had stirred in me. Over the next two years, with his wise and gentle guidance I found my way as a fully observant Jew. The spark that was rekindled by a public menorah is now a steady burning flame.

How grateful I am to live in a country that is founded on the right to worship as we choose, in the manner in which we choose. I thank our founding fathers who crafted the Constitution of the United States of America, which recognizes our freedom to express and practice our religion. And I thank those who have the courage, in these sometimes dark times, to defend those rights.

We never know how many hearts and lives are touched and, yes, even transformed, by the sight of the miraculous Chanukah lights, shining into the darkest reaches and reminding us of miracles long ago and not so long ago.

All those selfless souls whose courage and staunch commitment fuel the kindling of light the world over deserve our heartfelt gratitude. I know they have mine.

Reprinted with permission from The Jewish Press

12. Comment from Proud jew
Time December 13, 2012 at 11:53 PM

1. It’s not a New minhag it’s over 40 yrs old
2. It’s calle Persumei Nisah which is one if the mitzvahs of Chanukah
3.freedom of religion! The same way they have there tree we can have a menorah

13. Comment from Anonymous
Time December 14, 2012 at 4:47 AM

#12,

Thank you! Really, thank you.

You explained it so eloquently.
“The same way they have there [sic] tree we can have a menorah”

Bravo. So this is about being like them. Good for you. And then you can follow their “belief” system as well. Wow

14. Comment from Zev
Time December 14, 2012 at 5:15 AM

See Responsa ‘Oz Nidberu’ from Rabbi Binyamin Zilber ‘R Binyamin Hatzadik’ who sanctions the practice.

15. Comment from Shmulik
Time December 14, 2012 at 7:17 AM

Does the author have any latke recipes?
Maybe that he understands

16. Comment from libi b’marav
Time December 14, 2012 at 7:29 AM

Sitting here in eretz yisrael -erev shabbos chanuka and reading the arguments saddens me greatly.. there is great passion on both sides of how we jews should presently behave in the so called greatest democracy when it comes to publicly expressing our yiddishkeit… the writer notes that upon his visits to Israel one can see this is not an issue !!! in the usa and in the rest of the world for that matter - this display not only is not necessarily accepted by the host people- it even instigates hatred and anti-semitism .. and the pros’ side says nevertheless etc etc. Both sides seem to seek not only to manage but even enhance their golus stay !!! I say their passions should be diverted to the present and ultimate fate of klal yisrael !! Discuss vehemently how we should have in our hearts,lips and typing fingers “Tzion ki he bais chayeinu” living and thriving in Israel today is a reality !! Tora and parnassa are certainly as available as in chu”l.. I know all the reasons that many individuals have that they perhaps can not consider making the move today .. But for the general masses - the public and chinuch agenda should be what are we doing in golus when we can live in the home that hashem designated for our people to fulfill the mitzvas to their fullest !!

17. Comment from Well said
Time December 14, 2012 at 8:16 AM

It’s about time that someone stands up for halacha and tradition and against the narishkeit that has become so prevalent in our generation.

Last time I checked, the gemara says mitzvas Chanukah, ner ish u’baiso. It doesn’t mention candelabras in public squares lit with “cherry pickers”, driving around with “antlers” on top of your car and decorating your house by putting colored “Chanukah lights” in your windows and blow up dreidels and menorahs on your lawn.

Yet, unfortunately, many well meaning “frum” members of the community have succumbed themselves to take these cues from our gentile neighbors. Let us hope and pray that, as we say in al hanisim, the rabbim will outnumber the m’atim and the tehorim will overtake the t’maiim.

18. Comment from Proud Jew
Time December 14, 2012 at 9:30 AM

#13

Again to MR #13 i guess your a little slow but youll get it soon enough im sure
Freedom of Religion!
the same way they are aloud to have there trees all over the malls (which is a Religious thing) we can have our menorahs in malls as well bc we are living in a dif kind of world then 100 yrs ago!
(now just for MR 13 we are not following there beliefs! im just giving an example nothing to do with BEING LIKE THEM!)

19. Comment from pirsumei Nissa
Time December 14, 2012 at 12:14 PM

Look in shu”t Hisorerus tshuva 1 ch 153 and beis pichas in the name of pischa zuta that there is a mitzvah of pirsumei nisa EVEN BEFORE GOYIM!! like the pasuk says “vehisgadilti vehiskadishti …leinei goyim rabim”.

20. Comment from pirsumei Nissa
Time December 14, 2012 at 1:31 PM

I sent 2 real sources and you didn’t post it why?are you afraid of something?

21. Comment from Dazed and Confused
Time December 14, 2012 at 3:13 PM

Shmulik, you nailed it. a good latke is all the pirsum we need. Efshar oich a truppele mashkeh.

22. Comment from osher
Time December 16, 2012 at 9:55 PM

Pirsumei nisa is performed by lighting in the manner laid out in Maseches Shabbos the beginning of Bameh Madlikin. There is no kiyum mitzvah in huge menorahs in the center of town or electric ones on car roofs. The minhag is a minhag shtus, this is what we have Chazal for.

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