February 14, 2023

Nedarim 56

The Mishna (Nedarim 7:5) in today’s daf (Nedarim 56b) teaches us that someone who has made a vow prohibiting them from entering a particular home (בית) is forbidden to enter the doorframe of that home or be in any other part of that home. What we learn from here is that the boundaries of a home are from the doorframe of that home.
Interestingly, this has numerous practical ramifications, including in terms of the laws of Chanukah. This is because the duty of lighting the Chanukiah, as taught in a Beraita in Gemara Shabbat 21b, is נר איש וביתו – ‘a candle for a person and their home (בית)’. Accordingly, we may expect that a Chanukiah should be lit alongside the doorframe or inside a home.
However, while there are many who do light their Chanukiah inside, the Gemara (ibid.) states that, ‘it is a mitzvah to place the Chanukiah at the entrance to one’s house on the outside’ (על פתח ביתו מבחוץ), while ‘if someone lives on an upstairs floor, they should place the Chanukiah at the window adjacent to the public domain’ whereas, ‘in a time of danger… one should place the Chanukiah on a table inside the home’. What this means is that one should ideally light the Chanukiah beyond the boundary of one’s home.
However, this raises a question because, as we saw in Nedarim 56b, we define a home (בית) by the doorframe and into the home, whereas the ideal definition of home (בית) for Chanukah seems to extend beyond that boundary to the entrance of one’s house on the outside (על פתח ביתו מבחוץ). But why is this so?
The answer to this question is that while the mitzvah of Chanukah is a home(בית)-based mitzvah, there is a further duty on Chanukah of publicizing the miracle of Chanukah (פרסומי ניסא). And how do we balance the private-home-mitzvah with the duty to publicise this mitzvah? It is by stepping outside the doorframe of our home (בית) by lighting the Chanukiah ‘at the entrance to one’s house on the outside’ (על פתח ביתו מבחוץ). What this means is that the duty of publicizing the miracle of Chanukah (פרסומי ניסא) involves going beyond our boundary of home (בית) for the sake of bringing awareness of the miracle of Chanukah not only within our home but beyond as well.
Understood this way, Chanukah is a festival which involves going outside of our comfort zones to reach and inspire others, and it teaches us that we can achieve great things beyond the apparent boundaries and limitations that we see ahead of us.
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