Blessing on the Sun: Once every Twenty Eight Years
By Larry Fine
Although Jews are known for praising G-d by making blessing, such as blessings on food, blessings on the various mitzvoth, blessings that just praise G-d, even blessings on good tidings, yet there is a blessing that very few people can say that they have said three times in their lifetime. This is the blessing on the sun; it comes only once in twenty eight years! It can not be said except at a very special time, as we shall shortly explain.
This year, 2009, presents us with a rare opportunity to make this very special and unusual blessing but you must get up early in the morning to do so. This blessing will be said on Wednesday morning, April 8, 2009, which happens to come out on Erev Passover (the day before Passover). This blessing on the sun is known in Hebrew as Birkat haChama.
To give an explanation for this rare blessing, first know that it relates to the creation of the world and the exact position that the sun was in when the world was created. We all know that the sun was created on the fourth day, which is Wednesday, as it is recorded in the Torah (Genesis 1:14-19). Every twenty-eight years the sun returns to the exact position that it was in when the sun was created.
This year is the Jewish year 5769. The world was created in the year 1. Therefore since the sun returns back to its original place every 28 years; it came back to its original position for the first time in year 29. From this we see that to determine if a year will have the blessing on the sun, merely subtract 1 from the Jewish year (5769-1=5768) and then divide that number by 28 (5768/28=206). If the number comes out whole, meaning with out a fraction, then in that year there is the blessing on the sun. This year then is the 206th time in the history of the world that the blessing could be made.
The only question that we should have at this point is: Wasn't the world created in Tishre? After all we celebrate Rosh Hashanah in that month Passover is six months removed from then. It is in the Jewish month of Nisan.
The answer is that the Talmud records an argument as to the time of the creation of the world. Rabbi Eliezer says the world was created in the Jewish month of Tishre and Rabbi Yehosua says the world was created in Nisan, the Jewish month in which Passover is celebrated. Now both rabbis agree that the beginning of the counting of the yearly cycle is Tishre and that the beginning of the counting of the monthly cycle is Nisan. What do they argue about?
It seems that a possible explanation to their argument is that the world was created in Tishre in terms of thought, that G-d's plan of how the world would be created came into G-d's 'head' in Tishre, but in physical reality it did not come about until Nisan. The two rabbis argue to this point, but disagree as to which is the main creation, the finalization of G-d's thought or the actual bringing it into fruition as we see it. According to the fact that the blessing is made in Nisan, we can understand that the actual physical world was created in Nisan, since that is when the blessing is made. Rosh Hashanah therefore is when the concept, so to speak, came to G-d to create, which since by G-d there is very little difference between 'thinking' and 'accomplishing'.
Since the first time we can see the sun is when the sun rises, therefore this is the best time to make the blessing. Once three hours have past, the sun moves from one mazel (constellation) to another and no longer in the actual position that it was when the sun first shone upon the earth; therefore it is necessary to make the blessing before three hours have past.
The blessing should be said when one sees the sun (but of course be careful not to stare at the sun it is dangerous to the eyes) therefore one should glance for a very short moment at the sun and then look away to while making the blessing. It may be said while indoors and looking through a glass window.
Although there is no requirement to say it with a minyan (ten men) some say it is preferable. Women should also say the blessing and children should be encouraged to participate in this special mitzvah. The blessing may be made either before the regular prayer ceremony or after it.
If the clouds obscure the sun to the point that the basic form of the sun can not be seen then the blessing may not be made, however if the sun can still be seen through the clouds then the blessing may be made.
The following is the blessing:
"Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who made this work of creation."
In Hebrew one should say:
"Baruch Atah Addo-noy Ello-haynu Melech Ha-Olom osay ma-asseh berashit"
There are many more prayers and praises to G-d that may be said at this occasion, therefore we recommend that one who is interested in saying the full service should obtain a sheet with the prayers on it. But if one only said the above blessing, he/she has fulfilled the obligation to say the blessing on seeing the sun in its original position in doing so is praising G-d's handiwork.
May we merit to do it together next time.
from the April 2009 Edition of the Jewish Magazine