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‘All One’s Turns Shall Be To The Right’
Our Gemara states the halachic principle that when one performs the Avodah (the holy service in the Temple), all turns should be toward the right. The Gemara (Zevachim 62b) derives this from Ezekiel 43:17: “uma’alosehu penos kadim – whoever ascends it [the ramp of the altar] would face eastward.” Thus, the kohen sprinkling the blood of a sacrifice on the mizbe’ach would always move toward the right and circle the mizbe’ach clockwise.
A Universal Principle
This principle of moving toward the right is applied to other mitzvos as well. The Mechaber (Orach Chayim 676:5) notes that, starting on the second night of Chanukah when two or more Chanukah lights are kindled, one should first kindle the light furthermost to the left and continue kindling the lights moving toward the right.
Before Or After?
Interestingly, however, the Levush and the Taz (Orach Chayim 676:6) maintain that the candle on the far right should be kindled first. The Taz explains that the essence of the Gemara’s principle is that one must begin with the mitzvah on the right; however, the rule does not state that one must continuously move toward the right. He argues that it is more appropriate to begin kindling the menorah with the light on the far right (even though this means concluding with the one on the left) than to do the opposite. He reasons: Why should the conclusion of the mitzvah be considered more important than its beginning?
Writing A Sefer Torah
In support of his position, the Levush points to the fact that the writing of a Sefer Torah is done from right to left. The Eliyahu Rabbah (Orach Chayim 676:10) takes issue with the Levush’s proof, noting that although Hebrew words are read from right to left, a sofer forms the Hebrew characters by stroking his quill from left to right.
And indeed, the view of most Acharonim is in accord with the Mechaber – that when lighting Chanukah candles we start at the left and conclude at the right.
About the Author: RABBI YAAKOV KLASS, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. RABBI GERSHON TANNENBAUM, rav of Congregation Bnai Israel of Linden Heights, Boro Park, Brooklyn, is the Director of Igud HaRabbanim – The Rabbinical Alliance of America.
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