Family Illuminations
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Family Illuminations

Family Illuminations

Jewish survival and Jewish revival begins in the Jewish home.

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Integral to the mitzvah of lighting the Chanukah menorah is to "publicize the miracle." That’s why many people place their menorahs in front of a window so that the flames are visible to the public.

However, another location is even better for publicizing the miracle. Ideally, the menorah should be placed outside of one's home, on the left side of the door as one enters. In fact, today in Israel many homes are constructed with little cubbyholes in the wall next to the front door where menorahs can be placed. (It’s a beautiful experience to walk the streets of Jerusalem as families gather at their front doors to light the menorah.)

Surrounded By Mitzvahs

"Family values" has become the social issue du jour. Many people will tell you that most major ills of modern society can be traced to a breakdown in the fabric of families.

The ideal place for a menorah is at the door of the house. In addition to publicizing the miracle, the menorah is positioned here so that the entrance to one's home is "surrounded by mitzvahs" – i.e. the menorah on the left side and the mezuzah on the right. Chanukah brings together all the symbols of the Jewish home.

Every mezuzah, no matter how simple or elaborate the exterior casing may be, contains the exact same piece of parchment, inscribed with the Shema Yisrael: "Hear o' Israel, the Lord Our God, the Lord is One." This sentence contains the essence of Judaism. A Jewish home, more than anything else, is meant to be a place for fostering Jewish values and ideals. The mezuzah on our doorpost reminds us that a home is a place for learning, for growth and for spirituality, not just a shelter from the rain.

Home Central

In many ways, the Jewish family is central to Chanukah:

• The revolt against the Greeks was spearheaded by a family, the Hasmoneans.
• Another family, Chana and her seven sons (all of whom gave their lives rather than denying their devotion to God), stand as the ultimate symbol of dedication to Judaism.
• According to Jewish law, one should always try to light the menorah when the entire family is gathered together.
• The Talmudic terminology for the obligation to light the menorah on Chanukah is "one candle for each household."

During Chanukah, one's front door, the entranceway to Jewish family life, is to be surrounded by mitzvahs. The mezuzah calls our mind to the values and ideals that are taught and discussed and lived in a Jewish home, while the menorah reminds us of the willingness of Jewish families to fight for the survival of the Jewish life.

Jewish survival and Jewish revival begins and ends in the Jewish home.

Ideas to Enhance Judaism in Your Home:

1) Set aside 20 minutes each week to read a Jewish book with your children.

2) Light Shabbat candles on Friday night.

3) As a family, visit a nursing home. Find out who has no one to visit them and bring them a card at the next holiday. Children can make their own cards.

4) Stocks are an investment, and tzedaka is too. As a family, choose one or two charitable causes you would like to help, and then put aside a jar in your kitchen into which everyone can deposit some money on a regular basis. Once every few months, gather the money and send it to the organization. Include a note asking if there is any new information about the activities of the cause you are supporting. When that information arrives, read it together and watch your investments grow.

5) If you are single, your house is still a Jewish home and an important part of the Jewish national family. To enhance the Jewish character of your home, put a mezuzah on your doorpost, and hang a Jewish calendar in your kitchen. Start building your own Jewish library – designate a bookshelf in your home, and once a month buy a Jewish book to add to your collection.

Published: October 29, 2002


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