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    The gemara
    (Shabbos 21b)
    tells us that the
    proper place to
    put the Chanukah lights is in
    front of one’s
    home, so that
    all the passers-by will notice the
    lights, and thereby the greatest possible pirsumei nisa will be achieved.
    However, if it is a sha’as hasakanah,
    it is sufficient to leave the menorah
    inside one’s home. At one point the
    gemara (ibid 22b, see also Chidushei
    Sefas Emmes) clearly assumes that
    if the menorah is placed inside the
    home the mitzvah is not fulfilled at
    all because an essential factor in the
    mitzvah of ner Chanukah is the pirsumei nisa, and a private pirsum, serving only for the bnai habayis, is not
    sufficient. At that point the gemara
    clearly feels that the idea of placing
    the menorah on one’s table b’sha’as
    hasakanah is merely to have a zecher
    l’mitzvas ner Chanukah, without
    even partially fulfilling the mitzvah.
    The Sefas Emes points out that once
    the gemara reaches the conclusion
    of its discussion, this assumption is
    no longer necessary, and may fall
    away. One may assume that lighting
    in one’s home b’sha’as hasakanah is
    not merely for the purpose of having
    a zecher l’mitzvas ner Chanukah, but
    actually represents an incomplete kiyum hamitzvah of ner Chanukah; the
    pirsumie nisa for the bnai habayis
    constitutes a partial kiyum hamitzvah. This is obviously the position
    bnai chutz la’aretz have accepted for
    the past several centuries, since we
    recite all the berachos upon our lighting inside our homes; if it were only
    fulfilling a zecher l’ner Chanukah, it
    would probably not warrant all the
    In his collection of drashos on the
    Torah the Sefas Emes has an interesting comment regarding this change
    in practice with respect to the makom hadlokas haneiros. The Chanukah lights, explains the Sefas Emes,
    represent the ohr haTorah. Years ago
    the inside of the Jewish homes were
    saturated with Jewish values,
    and the placing of the menorah
    outside the home, just near the
    doorpost, represented the keeping of the foreign influence
    of the street from penetrating
    within. Nowadays, however,
    as the gemara (Avoda Zara 8a)
    comments, the Jews who live
    in chutz la’aretz “worship avoda zara b’tahara”, and even the
    insides of their homes fall prey
    to many foreign influences and
    elements. Today it is necessary
    to light the ohr haTorah inside
    to chase out the foreign notions.
    One possuk in Mishlei contrasts the effectiveness of learning
    Torah with that of fulfilling mitzvos,
    declaring, “ki ner mitzvah v’Torah
    ohr” – the illumination gained from
    doing a mitzvah is compared to the
    light of a small candle, while that
    gained from learning Torah is likened
    to the brilliance of a torch” (see Sotah
    21a). A passuk in Tehillim, however,
    compares even the illumination
    gained from Torah learning to
    the light of a candle – “ner leragli devarecha, ve’or le’nesivasi”.
    The medrash (Yalkut Shimoni to
    Tehillim 119, siman 478), commenting on that passuk, explains
    that when one has just started to
    learn Torah, he should not feel
    that he is already competent
    enough to develop an entire life
    philosophy – his own hashkofas
    olam. Only after much learning
    does the power of illumination
    of Torah change from a ner to
    an ohr.
    The gemara (Shabbos 88b,
    see also Rashi ad loc.) draws a
    distinction between two groups
    of people who learn Torah which
    it refers to as the meiyaminim
    and the masmeilim. For those
    who learn Torah with amal and
    yegiah, learning becomes a lifepreserving drug. For those who
    learn, but without such a great
    commitment, and without yegiah and amal, learning will become a source of confusion, and
    a drug inducing their death.
    Every person is enveloped
    in the choshech of our alma
    d’shikra. The possuk in borchi
    nafshi states, “toshes choshech
    veyehi layla”, on which the gemara (Bava Metzia 83b) comments, “zeh ha’olam hazeh shedomen lelaylah.” Our chachomim
    have taught us that “a small amount
    of light cancels much darkness”, but
    not all of the darkness. If one learns
    much Torah with great yegiah, he
    can dispel all of the choshech. If one
    has only begun to learn Torah, and
    only reached the level of ner leragli
    devarecha, then he will be in a state
    of ohr vechoshech mishtamshim
    b’irbuvyah[1]. We sometimes hear
    of Orthodox rabbis espousing antiTorah views even though these rabbis
    learned in yeshivas. The mere earning of semicha from a recognized
    yeshiva does not mean that a person
    is qualified to pasken a shayla. If one
    has ohr vechoshech mishtamshim
    b’irbuvyah in his own mind, he can
    never tell whether his opinion on any
    halachic matter is rooted in the ohr or
    in the choshech. The Shulchan Aruch
    (Rema, Yoreh Deah 242:3) quotes the
    statement of the Rambam, that those
    students of the Torah who paskin
    shaylas even though they are “lo
    higiyu l’hora’ah” are “extinguishing
    the illumination of the Torah.”
    This statement of the Rambam
    and the Shulchan Aruch was made
    so many years ago when the shaylas were usually standard, straightforward ones rooted in gemara and
    poskim. It is even truer today, when
    Klal Yisroel is faced with new types
    of shaylas, many of which have no
    clear precedent in halachic literature.
    These new shaylas require poskim of
    great stature, who have such a broad
    understanding of halacha that they
    have even refined their intuitions and
    instincts to think in terms of Torah.
    Let us continue to light the Chanukah
    menorah inside our homes to chase
    out the foreign influences that have
    already crept in. May we all be zoche
    to harbai min ha’ohr, to succeed in
    being docech all of the choshech.