On Chanuka we add a paragraph, known as “Al HaNissim” to the Shemoneh Esrei prayers and to Birkas HaMazon in which we thank Hashem for the miracles which He performed at this time. In it, we mention that the Chashmonaim lit candles in the courtyard of the Temple. Why didn’t they light the Menorah inside of the Temple where it is normally lit? (Derashos Chasam Sofer Vol. 1 pg. 67, Boruch SheAmar, K’Motzei Shalal Rav Chanuka pg. 172-175)
Rav Tzvi Hirsh Charif suggests that because the Kohanim were impure, they stood outside of the Temple in the courtyard and used long wooden sticks to light the menorah that was inside to avoid entering the Temple in a state of impurity and to avoid rendering the oil impure through contact. Rav Chaim Kanievsky answers that because the Kohanim were impure, they wanted to minimize their exposure to the Temple, so they brought the menorah outside, lit it, and then returned it to its proper place. Alternatively, he notes that the term חצר – courtyard – can also be used to refer to the inside of the Temple. Finally, the Chasam Sofer suggests that because the Temple was full of idols, they lit the menorah in the courtyard, where it burned for the entire 8 days. As a result of its public location, every Jew was able to witness the miracle, as oppose to only the Kohanim had it been lit inside. He adds that this answers the famous question of the Beis Yosef that Chanuka should only be 7 days because they had enough oil for the first day and the miracle only lasted for the final 7 days. However, the amount of oil they had was sufficient to burn one full day inside of the Temple, but outside in the cold winter winds more oil would be needed, yet it still lasted the full day, which was a miracle even on the first day.
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