A tale of two Hanukkas

Many cultures have a similar practice, which probably originated in sympathetic magic. In an attempt to encourage the sun to shine longer, you light fires.

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December 13, 2017 18:54
A FOUR-MASTED ship sails toward the port of the world’s southernmost city of Ushuaia, at the very so

A FOUR-MASTED ship sails toward the port of the world’s southernmost city of Ushuaia, at the very southernmost tip of Argentina. (photo credit: FACUNDO SANTANA/REUTERS)

 My wife and I once spent Hanukka in Ushuaia at the very southernmost tip of Argentina, across from the South Pole. At that season of the year there is no sunset and no sunrise there, only perpetual light. In addition to the problem of when one kindles the Hanukka lights under those circumstances, what bothered me most was that lighting them seemed superfluous.

What was the point of lighting lights when there was no darkness? Many years later we spent Hanukka in Moscow, so far north that, at that time of year, there is almost no daytime. The sun rose – but not too high – late in the morning and vanished early in the afternoon, so that the entire time was gloomy. Lighting the lights there seemed very important.

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