Q: Why do many people light menorahs in the front windows of their homes?
A: Tradition tells us that the menorah should be positioned for all to see, to publicize the Chanukah miracle. Most of us think that the miracle is the one we heard about as children: the single jug of oil lasting for eight days when the Maccabees rededicated the Temple in Jerusalem. But the early rabbis recognized that the Chanukah miracle was something deeper and more relevant to our lives todaythe victory of religious belief over the forces of assimilation. "The lighting of the hanukkiyah [Chanukah menorah] is the vehicle by which we remember this moment of Jewish history and proclaim it to ourselves and the outside world, writes Dr. Ron Wolfson in Hanukkah The Family Guide to Spiritual Celebration (Jewish Lights).
In days of old, the Chanukah lamp was hung at the entrance of the home, across from the mezuzah. When celebrating the holiday publicly was no longer safe, lighting the menorah was moved to a more discreet place inside the home.
In recent decades, those of us living in North America have begun to feel comfortable enough to openly light our menorahs in the windows of our homes. A recent exception occurred in Billings, Mont., on December 2, 1993. In one of a series of anti-Semitic incidents, youths spotted a menorah and other Chanukah symbols in five-year-old Isaac Schnitzers bedroom window and lobbed a brick through the glass. Shortly thereafter, community members, including hundreds who were not Jewish, started displaying cutouts of menorahs in their windows to take a stand against hatred.
Is there a Jewish tradition that you would like to know more about? Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 800-343-2823.