In the time of Chazal, the minhag was to light the menorah outside in the front courtyard. It was to be lit by the entranceway of the front yard, facing the street. This was on account of the fact that the maximum pirsumei nisa (publicizing the miracle) is when we light the Chanukah lamps outside.
However, when Jews started living among the gentiles, the minhag changed to light in the house on account of danger. Nowadays, the main pirsumei nissa is for one’s own family members. The question arises as to why we do not go back to the original custom in situations where, baruch Hashem, there is no longer a physical danger. There are many neighborhoods in the United States such as in Kiryas Yoel, Lakewood, Boro Park, Williamsburg and Far Rockaway where there are entire locations of just Jewish homes. Are there opinions that one should ideally be lighting outside in these neighborhoods?
Aruch HaShulchan’s View
The Aruch HaShulchan is of the opinion that we do not default to the original custom. He explains that the wind or rain would extinguish the menorah and Chazal did not go so far as to demand that we enclose the menorah in glass. In Eretz Yisrael today many people do light outside in a glass-enclosed case.
Rav Elyashivs’s View
Rav Elyashiv, zt”l (Kovaitz Teshuvos Vol. I #67) writes that even nowadays outside of Israel, where there is no danger on account of the gentiles, it is a mitzvah to light outside. Rav Moshe Shternbuch in his Teshuvos v’Hanhagos (Vol. III #215) also writes that in an all-Jewish community even outside of Israel, one should light outside.
Rav Shlomo Miller’s View
Rav Shlomo Miller, shlita writes (Kuntrus Shoshanas Yisroel) however, that in exile it has not been the custom to light at the front of one’s yard next to the street, nor should one be changing this practice. Why is this so?
Rav Miller explains that, generally speaking, we do not have permission from the local governing authorities and municipalities to light in such a manner without adequate fire safety steps. This is especially true if everyone were to start lighting outside it is highly likely that some sort of fire might break out, heaven forbid. Therefore, Rav Miller concludes that it is incorrect to be stringent in this matter.
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