The Chashukei Chemed writes that one who is homeless is exempt from the mitzvah of lighting the Chanukah menorah, for the mitzvah was enacted for one’s home. The question then is, since the miracle of the menorah occurred in the Beis HaMikdash and our shul today is considered a mikdash me’at, symbolic of the Temple of old, why didn’t Chazal make the main mitzvah to light in the synagogue? They could even have instituted that the kohanim should light the menorah just as they did in the Beis HaMikdash.
The answer is that the Jewish home is also supposed to be a semblance of the Mikdash. As such, we wish a chosson and kallah that they should build a bais ne’eman, a trustworthy home that will be a veritable mikdash me’at, a mini sanctuary.
Rav Avigdor Miller, zt”l, writes that the Torah depicts the creation of the world in 31 verses. On the other hand, the Mishkan – the Tabernacle in the desert – lasted only 39 years and yet is discussed in the Torah portions Terumah, Tetzaveh, part of Ki Sisa and the entirety of Vayakhel and Pekudei. He explains that this is because the Mishkan is the blueprint for the Jewish home.
What is the difference between a simple bayis and a mikdash? The gematria of bayis is 412 while the numerical value of mikdash is 444. The difference between them is 32, the numerical value of lev, heart, for to convert a bayis into a mikdash you need to put your heart into it. As we are taught, “Rachmanah liba bo, Hashem wants our heart from us.”
One of the manifestations of the heart is love. This is why on the 25th of Kislev, the first day of Chanukah, the progenitor of the shevet of Torah, Yissachar, was conceived. This came about through Leah’s love for Yaakov trading her son’s mandrakes for extra time with her husband Yaakov.
The verse in Tehillim [32:9] says, “Do not be like a horse and a mule without understanding.” A house with a heart means that we say our brachos with understanding, we pass our mezuzah thinking that Hashem is in the room, we eat our Shabbos cholent celebrating that Hashem created the world, and in general we try to be mindful of what we do, putting our heart into all of our actions. In this way, when we light our menorah, it too is in a mikdash.
Yavan, the civilization of the Syrian-Greeks, was all about exterior beauty, while the fire of Chanukah represents that which burns within, the p’nimius of a Jew. It is the antithesis of our media-driven society, which is all surface and no substance. May it be Hashem’s will that we achieve a life that is heartfelt and meaningful in our relationships, in our choices, and in our actions. In that merit, may Hashem bless us with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.