“Our Sages taught: ‘It is a mitzvah to place the Chanukah lights at the outside of the entrance to one’s house’ ”1 (Shabbos 21b). Tosafos explains that this describes an instance where the entrance of the house opens [directly] to the public domain. If, however, the house opens to a courtyard, the Chanukah lights should be placed at the entrance of the courtyard [that opens to the public domain].

Rashi, however, writes: “ ‘At the outside’ — in order to publicize the miracle.2 [The Chanukah lights] need not be placed in the public domain, but in one’s courtyard [i.e., at one’s own doorway. Why, then, did our Sages later mention a courtyard? Because in Talmudic times,] the homes would open to a courtyard.”

The Beis Yosef (Orach Chayim 671) quotes the opinion of Rashi that [the Chanukah lights] need not be placed in the public domain. The Tur and the Shulchan Aruch, however, follow the ruling of Tosafos and require that they be placed in the public domain.

The Talmud further states (ibid., 22a): “Where should they be placed?... The law is that they should be placed at the left [of the doorway], so that the mezuzah will be on the right and the Chanukah lights on the left.”

The Tur quotes the Avi HaEzri as saying that if there is no mezuzah in the doorway (i.e., we are speaking about an entrance that does not require a mezuzah — and defining this situation is problematic), the [Chanukah lights] should be placed on the right.

The following question would appear to present itself: Why is it a mitzvah to place the Chanukah lights specifically outside [our homes], and facing the public domain? For the intent of the expression, “at the entrance to one’s home,” is not that [the lights] be [placed] necessarily at the entrance. (By way of contrast: The commandment regarding the mezuzah requires that “you shall write them upon the doorposts of your home.”3 The mezuzah is thus associated with the house, inasmuch as it is the house which is required to have a mezuzah. In the case at hand, however, there is no intrinsic relationship between the Chanukah lights and the entrance of the house.) Rather, the intent of placing [the lights] there is that they should illuminate the public domain. This is reflected in the [above-mentioned] ruling of Tosafos, that if the house is situated in a courtyard, they must be placed at the entrance [from the public domain] to the courtyard.

In fact even according to Rashi, who rules that they need not be placed in the public domain but in one’s own courtyard, the context makes it clear that placing them at the entrance of one’s home is not the crucial requirement. (Note the comment of the Tur in the above-mentioned reference.)

Thus, we must understand: What is the connection of the Chanukah lights to the public domain?

Another question: Why [are the Chanukah lights placed] on the left side?

Furthermore: The statement, “so that the mezuzah will be on the right and the Chanukah lights on the left,” implies that there is an interrelation between them, [and therefore,] when the mezuzah is affixed to the right side, it is possible to place the Chanukah lights on the left; if not, it is impossible for the Chanukah lights to be on the left side; and for this reason, the Avi HaEzri maintains that if there is no mezuzah in the doorway, the [Chanukah lights] should be placed on the right side. This, then, calls for an explanation: What is the connection between the Chanukah lights and the mezuzah, and why is it that the mezuzah must be placed on the right side and the Chanukah lights on the left?

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In brief, the concept can be explained as follows: The Greek kingdom desired “to make [the Jews] forget Your Torah and make them violate the decrees of Your will.”4 After the Hasmonean royal family overpowered and defeated the Greeks, they ordained that the Chanukah lights be lit at the left of one’s entrance in order to correct the “left side,” [the source of the potential for evil in the universe].5 And this is why the [lights] should be placed in the public domain — so that they will refine and spiritualize even the domain of multiplicity, the “mountains of separation,” [the divisive self-assertion of this material world].6

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Let us understand this concept. It is written (Mishlei 6:23): “For a mitzvah is a lamp and the Torah is light, and the reproofs of instruction are the path of life.” I.e., a lamp is used as a metaphor for mitzvos; light, being luminous, is used as a metaphor for the Torah. Now the word ner (rendered above as “lamp”) has two meanings: (a) the receptacle which contains the oil and the wick; thus Rashi (in Shabbos 22b) defines the neros [atop the seven branches of the Menorah in the Beis HaMikdash] as “luces7 of gold in which the oil and the wick were placed”; (b) the oil and the wick which retain the light.

Both these meanings share one intent, that it is the ner which maintains the light. Without oil, the light given off would be neither lasting nor clear; it is the oil that allows it to be pure and to last. Even according to the first interpretation, where the word ner refers to the receptacle which contains the oil, the lamp is still necessary for the light; without it, it could not illuminate at all. Similarly in the analogue: to make it possible that “the Torah” be a “light”, there must first be the medium of “a mitzvah is a lamp.” Unless “a mitzvah is a lamp,” “the Torah” will not be a “light”.

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Let us understand this concept further. All the [practical] mitzvos are enclothed in material entities: the tzitzis in wool, the tefillin in parchment, the Four Species of the lulav in the various plants, the mezuzah in parchment. All other [practical] mitzvos, such as the separation of terumah and tithes, similarly [involve material entities].

The existence of all material things comes into being through the medium of the Divine Name Elokim.8 This is implied by the verse, “The heavens were made through the speech of Havayah.”9 [This teaches us that, although the Divine Name Havayah is the source for creation, its creative power passes through the medium of] speech, which is identified with the Sefirah of Malchus and the Name Elokim. Hence the Torah states, “In the beginning, Elokim created...,”10 and, in the account of creation, the Name Elokim appears 32 times.11

The Name Elokim limits and conceals the Name Havayah, as it is written, “Havayah and Elokim are [like] the sun and its shield.”12 Just as the shield veils the light of the sun, similarly the Name Elokim limits and conceals the light of the Name Havayah. The process of contraction and concealment is so manifold that material entities have come into being, any one of which appears to be a yesh, a completely self-sufficient entity.

The ultimate intent, however, of the creation of yesh from its source in ayin13 is that the yesh become nullified to the ayin. This is achieved through meditating upon the greatness of the Infinite One, meditating how “I, G‑d, have not changed,”14 i.e., that there is no difference between His existence before the creation and after it; as we say, “You were [the same] before the world was created; You are [the same] since the world has been created.”15

On the surface, this is difficult to understand. How can we say, “I, G‑d, have not changed”? After all, the extent to which G‑dliness is revealed varies from world to world. The Four Worlds of Atzilus, Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah all differ from each other. In Atzilus, G‑dliness is [openly] revealed, for “He and His life-giving energy are one; He and His causations [lit., ‘organs’] are one.”16 In Beriah, by contrast, G‑dliness is not as openly revealed.

Furthermore, within the World of Atzilus itself there are different levels. In the Sefiros of Keser17 and Chochmah (lit., “wisdom”), the infinite light of G‑dliness illuminates at close range. In the Sefirah of Binah (lit., “understanding”), its revelation is more distant.18

These terms do not imply a conception of physical space, but rather [refer to an abstract sense of closeness and distance]; i.e., in Keser and in Chochmah there is an intense revelation of G‑dliness, while in Binah the revelation is more muted.

[As the process of Divine self-limitation continues,] in Ze’er Anpin19 G‑dliness shines “through a window,”20 i.e., it is contracted even further, and in Malchus (lit., “kingship”) G‑dliness shines “through a hole,”21 which is an even greater limitation.

Nevertheless, as a whole, Atzilus is characterized by Divine revelation. It is called22 the revelation of concealed G‑dliness; [i.e., the spiritual qualities that are too sublime to be revealed in the realms above Atzilus come into revelation]. [As such, it is at one with G‑d and is an expression of His attributes.] In the World of Beriah, by contrast, G‑dliness is not openly revealed. Indeed, the very name Beriah, which means “creation”, implies something coming into being from nothing, [the beginning of seemingly independent existence].

In the World of Yetzirah there is an even greater concealment [of the Divine light that animates it], and in the World of Asiyah (as explained elsewhere) there is a still further concealment — until [this progressive process of Divine self-limitation brings into being] our physical world, a place of redoubled darkness, utter hiddenness and concealment.

Since the Divine light is thus revealed in so many distinct gradations, how can we understand the above verse that says that no change has taken place?

To resolve this paradox: All the above distinctions [in the Divine influence] exist only insofar as they are perceived from the perspective of its recipients. Because the World of Atzilus and its Sefiros have been refined, they have the potential to apprehend a greater revelation of G‑dliness. The World of Beriah, being less refined, cannot receive the same degree of G‑dly revelation. And so on with the realms of Yetzirah and Asiyah — until in this material world, which has not yet been refined, there is no possibility of receiving Divine light.

These distinctions thus relate only to the recipients [of Divine influence], who receive it in varying measure. The Ein Sof,23 however, is found equally below and above, as it is written, “Darkness is as light [for You].”24 G‑d exists within a place of darkness just as He exists within a place of light, for darkness conceals nothing from Him.

[The process of concealment does not affect Him because] the source for the darkness and concealment in the lower realms which brings yesh (seemingly independent existence) into being, stems from the Name Elokim. This Name conceals and veils [Divine revelation] until [seemingly] independent existence is possible. Yet only as perceived by us does G‑d appear to limit and conceal Himself,25 in order that yesh (i.e., seemingly independent existence) should come into being. However, from the perspective of the Being and Essence26 of the Ein Sof, the concepts of limitation and concealment are irrelevant. This is illustrated by the verses, “I fill the heavens and the earth,”27 and “The entire earth is full of His glory.”28

Concealment is possible only when one entity covers another. A single entity cannot, however, conceal itself. [This is reflected in Torah law.] A person cannot cover himself with himself. Thus, in regard to covering one’s head, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 91:4) rules that placing one’s hand on one’s head is not acceptable because an entity cannot cover itself.

[To return to the analogue:] In the spiritual realms, nothing exists apart from G‑d. “Havayah and Elokim are all one,”29 as explained elsewhere.30 Thus, it is not possible for anything to conceal G‑d, nor is it possible to say that the Name Elokim could conceal Him. For the Name Elokim, which is identified with the level of Malchus, is itself [an attribute of] G‑dliness; it is absolutely one with the Ein Sof. Thus, it is impossible that it cause any concealment of [G‑d’s Essence], nor even that it conceal the ray of creative light from the Name Havayah which brings the worlds into being.

Thus, the concealment is apparent only to the recipients of Divine influence; objectively, it does not affect the light. Therefore, the statement that “I have not changed” is true even in regard to the ray from the infinite Divine light (the Or Ein Sof) [which is the source of creation], and surely, it is true in regard to G‑d’s very Being, where the concept of concealment does not apply at all.

In truth, this [process which causes created beings to perceive G‑d as if concealed] makes possible the fulfillment of the intent which arose in G‑d’s simple will regarding [the creation of all] the worlds. [The worlds came into being to fulfill G‑d’s desire] “that I rule,”31 [which requires the existence of beings on a lower level, because] “There can be no king without a people.”32 Thus, [the world] was created through the attribute of Malchus in order that there exist entities which perceive themselves to be in a state of yesh [and that this yesh recognize G‑d and submit itself to Him].

This is the ultimate intention, for G‑d “desired to have a dwelling in the lower realms,”33 and it is through the creation of such a realm that His will is fulfilled. Thus Malchus, [the medium through which this process is accomplished,] is [a dimension of] the Ein Sof. Hence it is impossible that it should cause any concealment of the Or Ein Sof.

Quite the contrary: just as the Or Ein Sof exists in the higher realms, it exists in the lower realms; in fact, it is to be found here to a superior degree; its very essence is to be found here, for it is here that the essential intent [of creation is realized]. (Thus the maamar beginning Pasach Eliyahu in Torah Or, Parshas Vayeira,34 states that “[in this world,] moreover, the source of light itself is revealed.”)

See also the explanation of the maamar beginning Yaviu Levush Malchus (s.v. U’Biur HaHefresh) in Torah Or,35 which points out that the whole reason for the creation of the upper, infinite realms was so that through a downward progression of thousands and myriads of levels and through a multitude of contractions [of the Divine light], the existence of yesh could be brought into being. Were it not for this downward progression [of different levels] and these many contractions, it would be [so to speak] impossible that there exist a yesh which to all appearances enjoys an existence independent [of its Creator].

In order for yesh to exist, it was thus first necessary that the higher, infinite worlds should exist. They, however, do not represent [G‑d’s] fundamental intent. The basic intent that arose in the will of the very Being and Essence of the Ein Sof regarding [the creation of] the worlds is that this material world should be brought into being. If so, the very Being and Essence of the Ein Sof exists in the lower realms, i.e., in this material world, for it is this, and not the higher spiritual realms, that fulfills G‑d’s intent.

Nevertheless, this [difference in intent] does not reflect, heaven forbid, any change in regard to Him. This can be explained within the context of the above statements themselves. In truth, G‑d’s essential intent is to bring into being this [material] world. Nevertheless, since it is impossible for this world to exist without the higher spiritual realms existing first, there is also an essential intent that these realms exist; i.e., in order that they serve as the medium for the creation of this world. (Thus, the essence of the Ein Sof exists within them; they, too, [relate to the desire] which arose in His will.) Still, the ultimate intent is the existence of the lower realms, that the created beings of this material world become vessels for the very Being and Essence of the Ein Sof.

(Thus the maamar beginning Vayigash, 5633,36 explains that in the Messianic era, the framework of being described as Tikkun will continue to exist. [Tikkun, which characterizes our present existence, is thus not merely a temporary phase, necessary for us to earn the ultimate reward, but rather, it itself reflects the ultimate and most desirable state.] See also Torah Or, Parshas Vayishlach,37 which teaches that Yaakov desired to draw down the transcendent lights of Tohu into the vessels of Tikkun. The same discourse also explains what this concept entails in terms of our own service of G‑d. In fact the whole of the spiritual task discussed here can be accomplished only through the endeavors of mortal man.)

We can thus understand how, in truth, G‑d has not changed. Although it is not evident to us, the essence of the Or Ein Sof actually exists in this lowly world. The seeming change is apparent only from the perspective of the recipients [of Divine influence], who do not apprehend revealed light. In regard to the Or Ein Sof, however, there is no change at all: the Infinite One is unequivocally present at the very lowest levels.

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The following questions were raised: Why must the Chanukah candles be placed at the entrance to our homes on the outside, in the public domain or in a courtyard? Why must they be placed on the left side? And why when there is a mezuzah on the right side, is it possible to place the Chanukah lights on the left side, but if not, it is impossible for the Chanukah lights to be placed there (and the Avi HaEzri maintains that they should be placed at the right)?

To explain the concept: It is written: “For a mitzvah is a lamp and the Torah is light.” In order to make it possible that “the Torah” serve as “light”, there must first be the medium of “a mitzvah is a lamp.” The mitzvos are enclothed in material entities, the Divine intent being that through their actual performance, the yesh [the existence of self] will be nullified to ayin [selflessness].

This is made possible through meditation on the concept that “I, G‑d, have not changed,” [and realizing] that the seeming changes [in the manifestation of G‑dliness] appear as changes only to the recipients [of Divine influence]. Although they cannot receive [the full measure of] Divine light, the Ein Sof exists in the lower realms as He exists in the higher realms, for there is nothing separate from Him and there can be no concealment from [G‑d’s] essence.

This includes also the darkness [i.e., the limitation and concealment] that has its source in the Name Elokim. This Divine Name is one with the Or Ein Sof, and it is through this Name that G‑d’s desire for a dwelling in the lower worlds is fulfilled. The Name Elokim conceals only insofar as we perceive it to do so, for “these are His expressions of might.”38 In regard to the Ein Sof, however, the concept of concealment does not apply: He is present below exactly as above. Indeed, it is in the lower realms that “the light is in revelation,” i.e., that He is present. In this connection, see the maamar beginning VaYomer HaShem: Hein Am Echad, 5643.39