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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The sun re-sets

Good morning everyone.

A short while ago, I returned from reciting Birkas (or Birkat) HaChamah with about 20,000 of my neighbors (no exaggeration) in a park at the top of the mountain on which our neighborhood is built. We said the morning prayers at sunrise (as I have nearly every day for the last 13 years), and then we went out to the park and made the blessing. After the blessing, I completed a tractate of Talmud as I do every year on the eve of Pesach (another story for another time - maybe next year I will explain that one). Then we had a band and everyone danced and sang together for about an hour.

What is Birkas HaChama? When you read this explanation, you will understand why I titled this post as I did. And at the end, we'll go to the videotape (Hat Tip: NY Nana).
ברכת החמה

Mark your calendar for Judaism's once-in-28-year special event.

Jewish calendar, Creation took place 5,769 years ago. Why recite this blessing now? Why only once every 28 years? And how can this blessing help us grow closer to God in our daily lives?

The sun resets to its original starting point once every 28 years.

In order to understand Birkat HaChama, a bit of astronomy is necessary. The Torah teaches that on the fourth day of creation -- that very first Wednesday of world history -- God created the sun (Genesis 1:16). A solar year is 365 1/4 days long -- i.e. 52 complete weeks, plus 1 1/4 days left over. That means each year, the sun returns to its starting point 1 1/4 days later in the week. The sun resets to its original starting point -- at the first hour of Wednesday morning -- only once every 28 years. (Do the math.)

We recite the blessing, "Who performs the act of creation," because as we watch the sun rise that morning, we're witnessing the sun aligned at precisely the same spot -- and on the same day and same hour -- where it stood at the beginning of time. This represents the completion of another cycle of creation, as the solar system resets, renews, and begins again.

Spiritual Significance

The blessing on the sun reminds us to pause and wonder at the miraculous marvel of Creation. One of the great things about the sun -- its reliability -- also presents a great spiritual problem. It rises and sets every day, like clockwork, without fail. So we begin to take it for granted, and assume that just like it's always there, it always will be.

Nothing can be further from the truth.

Every morning during Shacharit, we describe God as "He who illuminates the earth... and in His goodness renews daily, perpetually the act of Creation." While the sun rises each day, it rises because God actively causes it and all of nature to function according to His divine and infinite will. In the harried rush of our busy lives, we allow ourselves to forget God's role in the majesty of Creation. We take Him for granted, precisely because He's always there, running the world in the background.

The sun provides miraculous benefits, all with great precision.

The sun provides so many miraculous benefits: Vitamin D and warmth for our bodies, photosynthesis that supports all life, and (according to the journal, Nature) more solar energy in one hour than all of mankind uses in one year. And all with great precision: Were the sun located just a bit further away or a bit closer than its distance of 92,960,000 miles, life on planet Earth would cease to exist.

As we recite the blessing on the sun, we contemplate the majesty of God's Universal Reset, appreciating God's amazing work that allows us to serve Him, as the sun rises, each and every day.

So... Twitter your friends and mark your calendar for the morning of April 8. Twenty-eight years from now, you'll probably be sitting with your grandchildren, reminiscing about where you were when you said the blessing on the sun in 2009.

Ideally, one should recite the blessing as early as possible, and with as large a group as possible. Practically speaking, this means that people will get up early and pray Shacharit right at sunrise, and immediately after recite the blessing:

Preferably, the blessing should be said by the third hour of the day. Adjusting for daylight savings time, this time is 9:42 a.m. in New York City, and 9:30 a.m. in Jerusalem. If necessary, the blessing can still be said up until midday (12:57 p.m. in New York and 12:41 in Jerusalem).

The blessing should be said where you can see the ball of the sun, or at least the silhouette of the sun behind a cloud. If it is a cloudy day and you cannot see the sun, you should say the blessing without including God's holy name.

According to the Mishnah Berurah (229:8), there are a number of other prayers to say that morning, in the following order:

Psalm 148
The blessing of "Oseh Ma'aseh Breishit"
"Kel Adone..." until "Chayot Hakodesh" (part of the first blessing of Shema on Shabbat morning)
Psalm 19
Kaddish in the presence of a minyan)

Text by - Gadi Elon
And now, let's go to the videotape.

Have a great day everyone!


Here's a picture from the Kotel (Western Wall) this morning (Hat Tip: Daniel F).


At 9:03 AM, Blogger Lois Koenig said...

Thanks for the hat tip, Carl.

Chag Pesach Sameach to you, Mrs. Carl and the family!

At 7:21 PM, Blogger Thud said...

Sounds good to me.


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