From the Rav’s Desk: Lighting candles on stairs

  1. Question: [Thursday, 24th Kisleiv 5781]

Our house entrance is made in the way that after you open the door and walk in, there are a few steps going down into the home, into the living room area where the couch is and where we would like to light the Hanukkah candles. My question is as follows: I know that initially the menorah is supposed to be positioned three Tefachim from above the ground. Do the stairs count as part of three Tefachim or must I place a stool or chair on top of the stair, and position the menorah on top of it. The top stair which is within the doorway where we would like to light is over three Tefachim from the ground floor of the living room.


In my opinion, typical stairs which are only meant for stepping on to get across and do not serve any independent use due to their very narrow space, are to be viewed similar to a stool or chair and therefore in the above case you may simply place the menorah on the actual stair which is above three Tefachim from the ground level where you will be sitting in the living room.

Explanations: The main reason for why we require the menorah to be placed higher than three Tefachim from the ground is because otherwise it appears as if it was placed on the ground, and since people don’t generally light candles on the ground and rather place it on an elevated surface, it will therefore appear that the candles were simply temporarily placed there and not truly lit for the sake of the mitzvah. Now, this only applies when the candles are lit on what is understood to be ground-level by most people, however a ledge or step which is elevated and is hence typical to place a candle there to give light, would not be viewed as a temporary location by the onlooker. Thus, narrow stairs which are not meant for any living activity but simply to walk past would be a valid elevated area for those sitting on the ground floor and see it.

Sources: See Michaber 671:6; Tur 671; Bach 671 brought in M”B 671:26; Levush; Peri Chadash 671; Beis Yosef; Kaf Hachaim 671:45; Aruch Hashulchan 671:22 who writes that one should measure three Tefachim from the doors Askufa itself and not from the ground, which would imply that by steps one measures from the actual step and not from the ground. However seemingly he was referring to steps which are very wide and use not just for stepping on but also for sitting and doing other activities in which case it is considered like the ground floor and indeed one should measure from it. However, by narrow steps that are only meant for walking on then he too would agree to measure from the ground; see Piskeiy Teshuvos 671:9

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