A DISCUSSION IN the Gemara (Shabbos 22a) regarding the proper placement of the menorah concludes that the menorah should be placed on the left side of the doorway so that it will be surrounded with mitzvos; mezuzah on the right side and menorah on the left. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 671:7) rules this way l’halacha, with one exception – when the doorway has no mezuzah, in which case the Shulachan Aruch rules that the menorah should be placed on the right side. The Mishnah Berurah (671:34) explains this exception in two ways. Firstly, mitzvos are usually associated with the right side. Secondly, this will cause further publicization of the miracle, because people are accustomed to turning to the right side.
The Sefas Emes grants us a glimpse into the inner dimension of these halachos with the following idea.
In Mishlei (3:16), Shlomo HaMelech makes a declaration regarding the holy Torah: Orech yamim b’yeminah, uv’smolah osher v’chavod – “In her right hand is length of days, in her left hand is wealth and honor.” The Gemara (Shabbos 63a) explains that those who study Torah for the proper intention receive “orech yamim”, the eternal spiritual delight of Olam haBah, while those who study Torah with the improper intentions receive “osher v’chvod”, the transient and corporeal pleasures of olam hazeh. From here we see that the right side, “b’yeminah”, is related to Olam HaBa, and the left side, “uv’smolah”, is related to Olam haZeh.
Mezuzah, about which the Torah says l’ma’an yirbu yemeichem – “So that your days may be lengthened”, is placed on the right side of the doorway; “Orech mayim b’yeminah”, the spirit of Olam HaBa. But what about the Menorah? Why is the menorah placed on the left side, a side associated with Olam HaZeh?
The halacha we have seen that when there is no mezuzah affixed to the doorway, the menorah is placed on the right side implies that the menorah is also deeply connected with the spirit of “orech yamim”, and “Olam HaBa”, just like the mezuzah. Indeed, the Sefas Emes teaches that the placement of the menorah on the left side is not indicative of weakness, but rather of great strength. Lit in the darkness of dusk, lower than the depth to which the Shechinah ordinarily descends (Succah 5a, see Meor Einayim, D’rush l’Chanukah, “Vayehi”), the Chanuka candles shine with an unparalleled spiritual brilliance that can penetrate the thickest darkness. The B’nei Yissaschar (Maamarei Chodshei Kislev-Teves 2:52) famously teaches that the 36 candles of Chanukah [1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8 = 36] shine with the Ohr HaGanuz, the Hidden Light that illuminated creation for 36 hours before it was concealed. It is the miraculous light of the eighth Sefirah, Binah – which shines upon the “sevenness of nature”, illuminating our physical reality with the transcendent warmth of Olam HaBa.
This, explains the Sefas Emes, is why the Menorah is placed on the left side. Because of its awesome bond with the world of Binah-Olam HaBa, the Menorah is placed on the side associated with Olam HaZeh, for it alone has the power necessary to illuminate every particle of physicality with the light of emunah, revealing Hashem’s loving presence in the depth of our pain and His constant miracles in the darkness of our concealment.