Lighting the Chanukah Light Outside
By Menachem Levison
The Talmud tells us that one should light the candles outside of his house by his door. The reason given is to publicize the miracle of Chanukah to those in the public domain. It is not enough that we "publicize" the miracle of Chanukah to our household; we must also declare it to the outside world.
The time when we light the Chanukah candles, from the time the sun begins to set until the last person leaves the marketplace, is an indication of the importance of publicizing the miracle. There are even opinions that hold that once there are no people in the street, there is no longer a purpose in lighting outside. Rather, we should light inside to proclaim the miracle for those in the house.
From this emphasis on the value of illuminating the "outside" we can learn an important lesson in education. It is not enough to make certain that our children receive a proper Jewish education. We must also try to help those who are wandering around in the public domain, influenced by the current popular thoughts and values. These are the people who are wandering in the dark, with nothing to illuminate their lives. We must light a spiritual candle for those who cannot see their way. This we must do until there is no one left "outside".
The Chanukah candles are a metaphor for the light of the Torah and the mitzvoth whose light attracts those who have lost their way and shows them the proper direction to travel. Bringing this message into our lives means that even when we are "outside" in the public domain, when we are working or shopping, we must try to light a candle of knowledge for others who have no light in their lives. It is not enough to have the "light" of Torah in our and our family's lives. We must help those in the darkness of the public domain. This is because all Jews are responsible for each other.
There is a disagreement between the academy of Shamai and the Academy of Hillel concerning the order of lighting the Chanukah candles. The Academy of Shamai says to start with eight candles and reduce the light by one each night; the Academy of Hillel says start with one candle and increase by one each night until you light eight candles on the last night. The latter opinion is the custom. So too when helping others bring the light of Torah into their lives, we must begin slowly and gradually build up their understanding and commitment to performing mitzvoth until they are fully committed.
But you may ask, do I have sufficient power, knowledge and charisma to make an impact on my surroundings? The answer is that since the lighting of the Chanukah candles is a mitzvah, G-d has invested Himself into the action. So also when you make an effort to reach out to others with the light of Torah, G-d Himself will give you the power to succeed.
from the November 2006 Edition of the Jewish Magazine