Ask the Expert: What If It’s Not Safe To Display My Menorah?

There have been antisemitic incidents in my area and I’m worried about being visibly Jewish.

Question: There have recently been some disturbing antisemitic incidents where I live, and I’m worried about putting my Hanukkah menorah in the window because I don’t want my home to be targeted. What should I do?

— Anonymous

Answer: What an appropriate question! Even in the days of the Talmud, our rabbis dealt with this issue of danger. In Shabbat 21b, the rabbis explain:

It is a mitzvah to place the Hanukkah lamp at the entrance to one’s house on the outside, so that all can see it. If he lived upstairs, he places it at the window adjacent to the public domain. And in a time of danger, one places the menorah on the table, and that is sufficient to fulfill his obligation.

Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 21b

The law of publicizing the miracle of Hanukkah turned from outward facing — placed next to the public domain — to inward facing, meaning that it was more important for people in the house to see the candles than someone outside in the street to see them. 

Therefore you can certainly light a menorah in a prominent place in the house that will only be seen by those inside the house. I think that it might be important to take the risk and publicize that we are proud Jews, but that is a decision for you to make. 

As far as fulfilling the mitzvah of lighting Hanukkah candles, you are on solid ground doing it inside the house. Some actually prefer to do it inside rather than in the window and will place the menorah on a little table next to the mezuzah in an inner doorway. This custom also originates in the Talmud (Shabbat 22a). 

Happy Hanukkah!

Rabbi Asher Lopatin is the spiritual leader of Kehillat Etz Chaim in Detroit, Michigan.

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