Chanuka 5766- Rabbi Shaya Greenwald
The Tur and Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 671) records that there is a Minhag to light the Chanuka Menora in shul. They write that one should place the Menora on the southern wall of the Shul, similar to its location in the Beis HaMikdash. The Beis HaMikdash consisted of a courtyard, the Azara, which contained the large Mizbeach, on which most of the Korbanos were brought. The entrance to the Beis HaMikdash was in the East, and as one entered and walked toward the Heichal, one would be traveling westward. On the opposite side, there was a chamber, called the Heichal, which contained the Mizbeach Hazahav, the Menora and the Shulchan. The Mizbeach Hazahav was used primarily for the daily Ketores, and was significantly smaller than the outer Mizbeach. The Mizbeach Hazahav, the Menora and the Shulchan were located halfway through the Heichal, with the Menora on the south and the Shulchan on the north. (The Mizbeach was located slightly closer to the entrance of the Heichal, so that the Menora would be ‘opposite the Shulchan’ with no interference.) A Kohain entering the Heichal, who would be facing westward toward the Kodesh Hakadashim, would have the Menora on his left side and the Shulchan on his right.
Rav Moshe Isserles wrote a commentary on the Tur and Beis Yosef, called the Darcei Moshe. The Darcei Moshe comments that the Halacha indeed is in accordance with the view of the Tur (and Shulchan Aruch) that the Menora is placed on the southern wall, unlike the custom in “Brin” to place the Menora on the north wall, to the left of the Chazan. This custom, which the Rama rejects, is based on an understanding that the Menora must be to the left of the opening to the Kodesh Hakadashim, which incidentally is south, while the prevalent Minhag assumes that the Menora must be in the south, which incidentally is to the left of the opening to the Kodesh HaKodoshim. There are many sources indicating that the Aron Hakodesh in the shul represents the Kodesh HaKodoshim, therefore the Shuls in “Brin,” which evidently faced east, had their Menoras placed to the left of the Aron Hakodesh.
There seems to be an unrelated Gemara in Maseches Menachos 98b. As an introduction we should note that the length of the Heichal was forty Amos, while the length of the Kodesh Hakadashim was twenty. (Incidentally, the width of the Heichal was twenty and the opening was ten wide and twenty high, with a wall of five Amos on each side of the opening. Accordingly, the Kodesh Hakadashim was a square.) The Gemara quotes two Braisas concerning the location of the Mizbeach Hazahav, the Menora and the Shulchan. The first Braisa states that the aforementioned vessels stood at the midpoint of the ‘house.’ The second Braisa records that they were located at one third of the length of the ‘house.’ The Gemara reconciles the two statements by explaining that the first Braisa was speaking of the Heichal exclusively, while the second one includes the Kodesh Hakadashim along with the Heichal. There is no dispute as to their location, for they stood at a point twenty Amos into the Heichal. The first Braisa records this as twenty out of forty, which is half, while the second Braisa views this as twenty Amos from a total of sixty.
At first glance, this seems to be a mere dispute over nomenclature. The argument is one of semantics; should we count the Kodesh Hakadashim as part of the Heichal building or not. However, I once heard an innovative explanation from Harav Dovid Cohen Shlit”a (Rav of Cong. Gvul Yaavetz). He suggested that perhaps the Braisas are arguing over a fundamental issue. It is possible that the first Braisa maintains that the location of the vessels in the Heichal was an absolute, irrespective of their proximity to the Kodesh Hakadashim. Therefore, their placement at twenty Amos into the Heichal is viewed as halfway in, because we are concerned with the Heichal alone, independently. However, the second Braisa understands that the location of the vessels is not to be viewed in a vacuum, but rather in relationship to the Kodesh Hakadashim. Accordingly, this Braisa must view the Heichal and Kodesh Hakadashim as one unit with regard to measuring the location of the Menora. Therefore, that same point of twenty Amos is referred to as one third of the way in, because the entire length of the Heichal and Kodesh Hakadashim together is sixty Amos, not merely forty. In effect, the two Braisas are arguing about whether the Menora should be in the south, as the first Braisa would indicate, with no significance given to the fact that it is to the left of the Kodesh Hakadashim. While the second Braisa would hold like the Minhag of ‘Brin’ that the Rama rejects, that the significant factor is that the Menora must be to the left of the Kodesh Hakadashim, while its being in the south is immaterial.