April 8: Here comes the sun
April 01, 2009
Winter sunrise. December 13, 2008.
Once every 28 years, the Jewish community celebrates the return of the sun to the place which our tradition says it occupied in the heavens at the precise time and day of its creation. The celebration is called Birkat ha-Chamah -- the Blessing of the Sun.
Twenty-eight years! Last time Birkat ha-Chamah was celebrated, I was six. Next time, I'll be 62. Good thing I'm planning to make the most of it this time when it rolls around....at sunrise on the morning of April 8, 2009, which is the morning of the day which will lead to the first seder of Pesach.
If you've been reading VR for any length of time, you won't be surprised to learn that I understand this not as a scientific celebration, but a metaphysical and metaphorical one. A few times in each life, if we are lucky, we have this opportunity to pause and take notice of the wonder that is our sun. To recite blessings and prayers. And to be thankful for this source of light -- and to the Source of Light which sustains it, and us, every day. How cool is that?
Spring sunrise light. March 18, 2008.
Interested folks can find a list of celebrations around the US and Israel here at Bless the Sun.org. (The list is growing; hopefully folks will add info on celebrations in other parts of the world, too.) I'll be at the 6am sunrise celebration at the entrance to Mt. Greylock Regional High School in Williamstown, sponsored by Congregation Beth Israel. (Sounds like an odd location, I realize, but across the street from MGRHS is an apple orchard which overlooks the Hopper and Mount Greylock. Gorgeous.)
Bless the Sun.org also offers a listing of ceremonial materials and resources. Hands down, my favorite liturgy for the ritual itself is written by my teacher Reb Marcia Prager, and is available on that page as a pdf download. It includes both traditional and creative texts in English, Hebrew, and transliteration. I also recommend Masekhet Hahammah, "Tractate Sun," a compendium of teachings and texts about the sun and this celebration which would make a great resource for studying between now and Pesach.
After celebrating the sun, I'll hop in my car and drive to Boston to celebrate Pesach with my sister and her family. I'm excited to see how and whether having begun my day with once-every-28-years sun celebrations shapes how the day unfolds, and how it reverberates into my celebrations of the festival of freedom which begins that night.
How will you celebrate the sun next Wednesday morning?
Summer sunrise. August 13, 2008.
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