Askmoses-A Jews Resource
Why do you believe G-d cares about you?
Browse our archives

The Scholar is ready to answer your question. Click the button below to chat now.


Scholar Online:

Type in your question here:

Click the button below to either CHAT LIVE with an AskMoses Scholar now - or - leave a message if no Scholar is currently online.

CHAT or LEAVE A MESSAGE

What is Birkat Hachamah (Blessing over the Sun)?

by Rabbi Shlomo Chein

  

Library » Miscellaneous » The Jewish Calendar | Subscribe | What is RSS?


PRINT EMAIL COMMENT

The Short Answer:

Birkat Hachamah is a special prayer recited once every twenty-eight years. The Talmud1 explains that at these times the Sun returns to the position that it had when the Universe was first created. The next date set is April 8, 2009 (14 Nisan 57692).3

The service generally includes the blessing "Oseh Maseh Vreishit" ("Makes the work of creation"), some verses from the Torah and Psalms, passages from the Talmud, selected prayers and Kaddish.

The Askmoses Answer:

The Sun

The sun was created on the fourth day of Creation. 

In its apparent motion in the ecliptic, the sun has four 'turning points' which mark the beginnings of the four respective seasons. These points are generically referred to in Jewish literature as the Tekufot (sing. Tekufah). They are: the two equinoctial points when the sun crosses the equator at the beginning of spring and autumn respectively, and 'turns' from one side of the equator to the other; and the two solstices, when the sun is at its maximum distance, or declination, from the equator, at one or other side of it, at the beginning of summer and winter respectively, and instead of progressively increasing its declination it 'turns' to decrease it progressively.

In the week of creation at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, which is the beginning of the fourth day, the sun made its debut: the original Tekufah.

Every 28 years the Tekufah will recur not only at the same time of the day, but also on the same day of the week.
The Cycle

Now, A complete solar cycle consists of 365 1/4 days, or 52 weeks 1 day and six hours; which means every consecutive year the Tekufah occurs 1 1/4 days later in the week. So in the following year (after creation) spring began early Thursday at midnight (one day of the week and 6 hours after Tuesday at 6:00 p.m.). The following year it began at 6:00 a.m. on Friday, the following year at noon on Shabbat, and the year after that at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday.

Every 4 years it occurs at the same time of the day but (1 1/4 X 4 =) 5 days later in the week. Every 28 years (10227 days) the Tekufah will recur not only at the same time of the day, but also on the same day of the week. 

The Date

Since the sun and moon were created on the 4th day, the beginning of the 28 years cycle is always at the vernal equinox at 6 p.m. on Tuesday evening (the beginning of the fourth day). Birkat Hachamah is thus always on a Wednesday morning (when the sun is actually visible).

The date of the month, however, changes. Since Birkat Hachamah follows the solar cycle whereas the Jewish calendar follows (for the most part) the lunar cycle, the Hebrew date for this varies widely: in the past 400 years, Birkat Hachamah has been said as early as the 27th of Adar II (in 5461 [1701]) and as late as the 26th of Nissan (in 5545 [1785] and 5629 [1869]).

The Gregorian date also varies, albeit slightly, changing every century that the Gregorian calendar skips a leap date (i.e. when there is no February 29 in years ending in "00", not divisible by 400). Therefore, in the 19th Century Birkat Hachamah was said on April 7. It switched to April 8 when there was no February 29, 1900.  After 2100, when February 29 will not occur, it will switch to April 9.

The Ceremony

Our Rabbis taught:4 "He who sees the sun at its [original] Tekufah... should say: 'Blessed be He who makes the work of creation'. And when does this happen? Abaye said: Every twenty eight years when the cycle begins again and the Nisan [Spring] equinox falls in Saturn on the evening of Tuesday, going into Wednesday."

The actual blessing is:

Boruch Attah Ado-nai Elo-heinu Melech haolam oseh maaseh vereishit.
[Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, King of the Universe, Who makes the Work of Creation].

Additional prayers are said before and after the blessing.5 It is preferable to celebrate this event with an early-morning outdoor communal ceremony, and if a Minyan is present the ceremony is concluded with the mourner's Kaddish.

Footnotes

  • 1. Talmud tractate Berachot 59b
  • 2. Although we are currently in the year 5769, it is really only 5768 years SINCE creation, because creation is the year 1, not 0. (See http://www.askmoses.com/en/article/173,2107657/Timeline-of-Jewish-History.html). 5768 is 206 times 28.
  • 3. Birkat Hachama follows the solar (rather than Jewish) calendar, and is thus determined by the Gregorian (rather than Jewish) date.
  • 4. Talmud tractate Brachot 59b, codified in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 229:2
  • 5. Before: Psalm 148. After: Ei-l Adon (from the Shabbat morning prayer); Psalm 19; and Aleinu. See Mishna Brura 229:8. See also Teshuvos Chasam Sofer 1:56. There are various other customs as to which psukim and tefillos are recited before and after the bracha.

ADD A COMMENT

Please email me when new comments are posted (you must be  logged in).
Shabbat
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Adar
The twelfth month on the Jewish calendar. This month (which falls out approx. February-March), is the most joyous month on the calendar due to the holiday of Purim which is on the 14th and 15th of this month.
Nissan
The first month of the Jewish calendar. This month, which falls out in early spring, is known for the holiday of Passover which starts on the 15th of Nissan.
Psalms
The Book of Psalms. One of the 24 books of the Bible. Compiled by King David; mostly comprised of poetic praise for G-d. A large part of our prayers are culled from this book.
Kaddish
A prayer sanctifying G-d's name which is sprinkled throughout the daily prayers and is recited by the leader of the services. This prayer is also recited by mourners during the first year of mourning, and on the anniversary of the death.
Minyan
A quorum consisting of ten adult male Jews. A minyan is necessary to recite the kaddish or to publicly read from the Torah scroll.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.