Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Birkat Hachama - Blessing of the Sun - Every 28 years!

God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate day from night; they shall serve as signs for the set times—the days and the years; and they shall serve as lights in the expanse of the sky to shine upon the earth.” And it was so. God made the two great lights, the greater light to dominate the day and the lesser light to dominate the night, and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the sky to shine upon the earth, to dominate the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that this was good. And there was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.
-- Genesis 1:14—19

Birkat Hachama
(ברכת החמה, "Blessing for the Sun") refers to a Jewish Blessing that is recited in appreciation of the Sun once every twenty-eight years, when the vernal equinox as calculated by tradition falls on a Tuesday (the Third Day) at sundown. Jewish tradition says that when the Sun completes this cycle, it has returned to its position when the world was created.

Rabbi Abaye said: “Every twenty-eight years the major solar cycle begins again and the Nisan
equinox falls in the hour of Saturn on the evening of Tuesday which is the night before Wednesday.”

According to Jewish tradition, the sun was created at the spring equinox, the first hour of the night before the fourth day of Creation. Every 10,227 days – according to the Babylonian Talmud, tractate Berachot 59b – the sun returns to its position at Creation. As codified in the Shulchan Aruch and on the basis of intricate calculations reconciling the Jewish and Gregorian calendars, Birkat HaChammah, a prayer service marking this 28-year cycle, is conducted on a Wednesday in the month of Nissan, when the sun is about 90 degrees above the eastern horizon.

The year 5769 is such a year. The Blessing of the Sun takes place on April 8, 2009 (erev Pesach).

"ברוך אתה ה' אלהינו מלך העולם עושה מעשה בראשית"
"Blessed are You, LORD, our God, King of the Universe who makes the works of Creation."

Order of the service

The service generally includes:

  • Psalms 148:1-6
  • The blessing: "Baruch Atah A-donai E-loheinu Melech Ha`olam Oseh Ma`aseh Breishit."
  • Psalm 19
  • Psalm 121
  • Psalm 150
  • A passage from the Talmud regarding the obligation of Birkat Hachama.
  • Psalm 67
  • Aleinu
  • The mourner's Kaddish.

Shehecheyanu is not recited, because this blessing is only a blessing of praise, just as no shehecheyanu is recited when making the annual blessing on fruit trees.

Birkat Hachama will occur next on

(Wednesday is cited as the day instead of Tuesday - because the biblical day begins at sunset of the prior day)

  • Wednesday, April 8, 2009 (14 Nisan 5769) =====> Tuesday at Sunset
  • Wednesday, April 8, 2037 (23 Nisan 5797)
  • Wednesday, April 8, 2065 (2 Nisan 5825)
  • Wednesday, April 8, 2093 (12 Nisan 5853)
  • Wednesday, April 9, 2121 (21 Nisan 5881)

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