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In the Northern Hemisphere, Shavu'ot falls in the late Spring or early Summer. As a result, sunrise is relatively early, so learning "all night" and then praying the morning service at the earliest optimal time would mean timing the service based on a sunrise of, e.g. 05:36 in Jerusalem in 2012.

By contrast, in the Southern Hemisphere, this holiday falls in the late Autumn or early Winter, so the night is longer, and sunrise is significantly later: 06:48 in Sydney in 2012 and 07:40 in Capetown in 2012. As a result, people there who learn "all night" have to stay up an hour or two more into the morning than those in the North.

I'm wondering whether, as a result of this difference, the practice of learning all night is either less prevalent in the Southern Hemisphere, or perhaps whether alternative schedules (such as this one) are more prevalent there.

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And with Tzeit at 6PM they get to start much earlier too. So instead of 1130 - 500 it's more like 9-7. That's 10 hours! –  Double AA May 29 '12 at 21:50
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Perhaps they start later? Before we started our city-wide tikkun I observed start times as late as midnight in the Orthodox community, which is way later than sunset. Which raises the question of how late you can start and still be valid... –  Monica Cellio May 29 '12 at 21:52
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@MonicaCellio; it's not "Start learning at sunset." It's "you don't pray until sunset+45 minutes [or 42 or 50 or 72 etc.], then allow time to go home, prepare, eat, clean up, then go back to synagogue." So figure to start the learning eh, 3 hours after sunset. Still, we're talking much earlier in the Southern Hemisphere. –  Shalom May 29 '12 at 22:07
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@MonicaCellio Wow! –  Isaac Moses May 29 '12 at 22:12
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One of my rebbeim in Israel once told a story about the time he was invited to be a scholar in residence in Australia for Shavuos. At least where he was, they did learn the entire night, which was much longer than he was used to from Israel or North America. –  AGC Jun 5 '12 at 18:38

1 Answer 1

I live in Sydney Australia and I can say definitively that yes the custom is to stay up all night and learn on Shavuot night. I have never heard the suggestion that staying up all night is related to the time of sunrise/sunset at that time of year. I have many friends in South Africa and can say that they have the same custom as well.

My inclination is that if you're staying up all night to learn, davening at 5:30 am or at 6:50 am doesn't make too much difference (although if you're right about 7:40am in Capetown that does sound tough).

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BJS, welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks very much for sharing your experience! Please consider registering your account, which will give you access to more of the site's features. –  Isaac Moses Jun 28 '12 at 10:50

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