When placing a Menorah in a high rise lobby are there Jewish rules that need adhering to? Should it stand alone? Does it need to be placed on a white cloth? There seem to be some discrepancies among the residents in our building.
1. Jewish law is what is legislated in Oral Law canonical documents.
2. According to bShabbat 21b the menorah is placed at the door on the outside. If one resides in a floor above ground, the menorah is placed in that window facing the public access thoroughfare. If there is danger, one observes the command on the table.
3. At bBaba Qama 82b we learn that we should perform the Hanukkah candle lite in a public setting and if placed above twenty amot is invalid for observing the commandment.
4. This public menorah serves a social and political function but by canonical Jewish law and
a. Is not a commandment as it is not a residence
b. Does not generate a commandment blessing
c. The popular religion of the Jewish street is not always canonical or correct
d. The very high menorahs in public do not generate a blessing as they are not commandments, over and above the issue regarding religion in the larger American public square.
5. In conclusion,
a. Public menorahs are not required according to Jewish law
b. As long as no blessing is made, as the rite is not required as a command, there are no formal rules that must be observed including tablecloth placement
c. Orthodox Judaism is a system of rules and values; the zealous Hanukkah blessings have been justified by some within the Orthodox social franchise, but their propriety should be questioned.
That is a wonderful question and one that requires both a response from a values perspective as well as one from a Halachic, or Jewish legal, perspective.
Many apartment buildings try to decorate the lobby in a way that all residents and guests will feel represented. Most will agree that this is a good value. Some may cynically chalk it up to political correctness and ask where the lobby's Purim decorations were in March.
If an apartment building is going to display a chanukiyah (a menorah has seven branches and isn't used on Hanukkah) in the lobby and it's being lit (or turned on in the case of an electric model) by a non-Jew then there are no rules that must be followed. If it is being lit by a Jewish person then the rules of lighting the chanukiyah should be followed. In most cases, the chanukiyah in an apartment building lobby is for display purposes only and is being displayed as a symbol of the Jewish holiday. Nevertheless, the lit (or illuminated) candles should represent the correct number of days of the holiday.
There is no requirement for non-Jews to light the Hanukkah lights and thus if a non-Jewish individuals who works in the apartment is charged with the task of illuminating the lobby's chanukiyah, no blessing should be said.
Thank you for the question. I better make sure I get the answer done quickly or the info will be good only for next year.
Here are the general guidelines for menorahs:
The most preferred medium is olive oil and wicks made from cotton or linen. New wicks are not needed every night. Candles work, too
The candle holders or oil receptacle in the menorah used should be positioned in one straight line but, these days, there are so many artistic designs. The important thing is that shamash is higher, not lower, than the candles themselves.
The lights are placed in the menorah from right to left before kindling and are lit from left to right.
All subsequent nights only the first two brachot are recited - shel Hannukah and sh'asah nissim. Shehechiyanu is only on the first night
The brachot should precede the lighting and the Haneirot Hallalu should be said after lighting the first flame, while continuing to light the others.
The menorah should ideally be placed outside to the left of the doorpost, opposite the mezuzah.
Menorahs kindled inside the home, should be set at a window facing a public thoroughfare or neighbouring residences and facing the outside as if the people on the outside are lighting it. Therefore, when the menorah is set up in the lobby, position it so that people coming in see the ascending lights from right to left.
The menorah should not be moved after being kindled.
Every menorah should have its own additional shamash.
One may not derive any benefit from the menorah (i.e. reading by its light)
Now, having said that, what is the specific answer to your question? It sounds like the question your friends are asking is whether or not the menorah has a level of kedushah - holiness. Well, yes and no. Yes in the sense that when it is being used, it is being used as a holy thing but no in the sense that one does not have to be a state of purity to use it and it does not transmit impurity, etc. That, I think, is the reason that someone suggested that the menorah not touch the table. There is no impurity transferred to the menorah from the table. I suspect that having the tablecloth was strictly a family tradition.
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