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Understanding The Solar Blessing – Birchas HaChamah 5769

Posted by Rabbi Yosef Tropper
March 24th, 2009
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בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה אֲדֹנָי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶֽךְ הָעוֹלָם עוֹשֶׂה מַעֲשֵׂה בְרֵאשִית. (ע’ ברכות (נט:) ושו”ע או”ח רכט:ב)

Blessed are You, Hashem our God, King of the universe, who makes the work of creation.

Mark your calendar! This upcoming Wednesday morning, the 14th of Nissan 5769 (Erev Pesach), April 8, 2009, you can take part in history! This opportunity comes only a few times in a lifetime! It is only the 207th time ever in the history of the world that this berachah can be made!

First, I would like to present a brief explanation as what Birchas HaChamah is all about, including general laws. Second, I would like to share one interesting thought on the topic.

Part 1: Laws

The Gemara (Berachos 59b) teaches that once every twenty-eight years the solar cycle begins again and the vernal (spring) equinox falls precisely in Saturn (the technical details of this formula are beyond the scope of this article, but suffice it to say that every one of the zodiac constellations rotate, and Saturn was the “ruling” force on the first hour of Wednesday when the sun was established.), on the evening of Tuesday (6 P.M.) leading into Wednesday. The sun is then located in the exact spot as it was when Hashem first created it on the fourth day of creation in relation to all of the stars, planets, time and day. Since the sun is not visible in all places during that hour of the evening, Chazal decreed that we should pronounce the blessing early the next morning. This is what we call Birchas HaChamah, the recognition of Hashem’s creation of the sun.

These brief laws are collected from many sources. Please consult your local Halachic authority for exact application of these laws.

1- Some announce this upcoming berachah the day before in Shul. One should remind his friends and family about this great and unique Mitzvah.

2- The blessing should be recited while standing, after glancing at the sun and does not have to be made while outside as long as one can see the sun from inside.

3- The blessing is made anytime from sunrise on Wednesday morning until the third hour of the day. It is best to do it immediately following davening.

4- If it is too cloudy to see the sun, one has until midday to pronounce the blessing. After that time however, it should be recited but without Shem u’Malchus: ברוך אתה עושה מעשה בראשית

(for example NYC sunrise is at 6:28 A.M. ; 3rd hour is at 9:43 A.M. ; Midday is at 12:58 P.M.).

5- Many chose to daven Vasikun in order to make the blessing as early as possible and go out with the entire congregation while still wearing their Tallis and Tefillin to pronounce the blessing together. A minyan is not necessary but is commendable if possible.

6- The blessing of Shechiyanu is not pronounced for various reasons.

7- Woman too recite this berachah with Shem u’Malchus.

8- Children at the age of Chinuch recite this berachah with Shem u’Malchus.

9- There are many other prayers that people say before and after reciting this berachah (Click here for the text), though the most important words are the actual blessing!

May we all merit to make this blessing many more times together with all of our loved ones and may we merit to see the coming of Mashiach speedily!

Part 2: A Torah Perspective on Birchas HaChamah

Bringing Hashem Into The Picture

There are two questions that come to mind regarding Birchas HaChamah:

1- What is the significance of the fact that the solar cycle lasts for 28 years? It cannot simply be a coincidental number?

2- Why did Hashem create the sun specifically in the time when Shabsai, Saturn, was ruling, would it not have been more appropriate to create the sun and let the sun rule the sky immediately?! More so, astronomically, according to Chazal’s list of the seven bodies in the sky, Saturn is the furthest away from the sun! (Uranus and Neptune (and Pluto) are not discussed by Chazal because they cannot be seen by the naked eye and thus exert no influence upon us and are thereby irrelevant to Chazal’s discussions of the celestial bodies.)

Here is what I think we can learn from all of this:

The number twenty-eight immediately reminds us of Koheles (Chapter 3). Shlomo HaMelech enumerates twenty-eight varied human actions and emotions that fill the average lifetime. A time for… birth, death, laughter, crying, building, dismantling, love, hate, war and peace, etc. The complete gamut of life stages. But what is it all worth?! Shlomo himself states that it is all futile! His conclusion is that only a life imbued with spirituality and connection to Hashem has any value. Otherwise, all of these fleeting moments and experiences have no intrinsic value what-so-ever!

Chazal (Shabbos 156a) tell us that one born under the mazel, zodiac influence, of the sun will have material wealth. The sun represents material comfort and pleasure. Our challenge is to not get distracted by it, but rather to utilize it for the service of Hashem. This is the ultimate goal.

The world is a monotonous cycle that continues; our job is to sanctify our experiences. Indeed, “there is nothing new under the sun” (Koheles 1:9)! The Jews count their days according to the moon. The moon represents humility, subjugation and constant refreshing. Our lives revolve around subservience to Hashem and are thus meaningful and fulfilled. Now we understand why the cycle is twenty-eight years. It represents the collective physical world. And now we can move on to understand the significance of pronouncing a berachah upon it.

When we pronounce a blessing upon something, we uplift it. When one eats a delicious meal, it may appear that he is doing so solely for his own pleasure. The pleasure is then ephemeral and fleeting. However, when one recites a berachah, he thus brings Hashem into the picture. He is thanking Hashem and elevating the experience. The food has now been transformed into a Mitzvah and thus eternity! The mundane has become valuable!

In this vein, we go outside and look at the sun. We realize that it represents the earthly world and physicality. We then proclaim a berachah upon it, signifying that we commit ourselves to sanctify Hashem and desire ever so passionately to imbue our lives with holiness and growth. This is our power as Jews. We can make a berachah (bring holiness) on the sun (the mundane world)!

Why was the sun established while Saturn ruled the sky? The Gemara (Shabbos 156a) teaches us that one born during the rule of Saturn will have many earthly evil thoughts! This explains why the sun was created under its rule. It represents Olam HaZeh, the present temporal world. This is the most appropriate time for its creation. Our job is to elevate and uplift ourselves by going against our earthly desires.

This is the significance of the Kaddish prayer as well. We honor the dead by pronouncing Kaddish for them. When ten men answer the mourner’s prayer, the soul of the deceased is uplifted. The entire theme of Kaddish is to elevate the physical world to recognize Hashem’s rule. It comes as no surprise then that the climax of Kaddish (from the words “Yehey Shmay Rabba Mivarach, may His Great Name be Blessed” until “B’almah.”) is comprised of precisely twenty-eight words! This is to show that we wish to elevate the world by bringing Hashem into every facet of our daily existence. Also, Kabbalistically, the four letter name  of Hashem when spelled out, extrapolating every letter, contains exactly twenty-eight letters! This is the theme of Kaddish, bringing out Hashem’s name.

([י=] יו”ד וא”ו דל”ת, [ה=] ה”א אל”ף, [ו=] וא”ו אל”ף וא”ו, [ה=] ה”א אל”ף)

Indeed, we see just how precious life is. We constantly have opportunities to elevate the physical world to great spiritual heights. This is what our blessing upon the sun is stating. We wish to imbue our life with spirituality!

May the lesson of Birchas HaChamah touch our hearts and inspire us to live our lives connected to Hashem, bringing us true happiness!

Click here for the complete text of Birchas HaChamah

(Left click to view; right click and “Save Target As / Save Link As” to download)


Categories: Halacha, Hashkafah, Machshuvah Tags: , , , , ,

  1. March 26th, 2009 at 02:16 | #1

    This upcoming Wednesday! Still a couple Wednesdays to go.

    Yaacov Haber

    Reply to Yaacov Haber

  2. ratzon
    March 29th, 2009 at 16:30 | #2

    Thank You Yosef Tropper!i just told your dvar torah to my cpa. He liked it so much he gave me off $25!!!!!thanks

    Reply to ratzon

  3. mum
    April 1st, 2009 at 01:00 | #3

    A. I believe that some do say Shehechiyonu and wear a new beged (or have a new fruit) as well.

    B. Interestingly – oseh ma-ase breishis is in present tense. Meaning, Hashem is constantly creating the world. Were he to cease to create the world would cease to exist.

    Reply to mum

  4. s.a.a.
    April 1st, 2009 at 01:01 | #4

    oops – “He” should be in capital.

    Reply to s.a.a.

  5. heiker mendoza
    August 6th, 2009 at 10:10 | #5

    shalom estoy claro que vengo de la linea directa del linaje de el kind david otra cosa es que no entienda muchas cosas del judaismo

    Reply to heiker mendoza

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