Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Oseh Ma'aseh B'reishit - Being Thankful for Creation

I don't remember Birkat Hachamah the last time - the Blessing of the Sun, from 1981. A big of google work and I found that the date was April 11th, 1981. I sniffed around and was reminded that the Aids epidemic was felt to have begun in 1981, that Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul were both shot and recovered and if you look on Wikipedia, you'll see an exhaustive listing of births (the Bush twins) and deaths (Hoagy Charmichael and Bobby Sands). Stuff happened.

Just to give you some background - From an article in the NYTimes: 'The calculation goes like this: God created the sun, the moon and the stars on Wednesday, the fourth day. A solar year is about 365 1/4 days, or about 52 weeks and 1 1/4 days. So each year since creation, the sun rises 1 1/4 days, or 30 hours, later. It takes 28 years for the sun to again hit the same position in the firmament at the same moment on the same day of the week.

Of course, it is not that simple. The astronomical computations, as well as the proper course of action in case the sun is obscured, are “subjects of great discussion, debate and analysis...Though the sun was created during the vernal equinox, a solar year is not precisely 365 1/4 days, but a few minutes less. Over many millennia, the time difference puts the solar calendar out of sync with the lunar Hebrew calendar; the actual vernal equinox occurred on March 20.'

Here's another good bit from an article from the Shalom Center:
'Why today? Because alongside the view that the Creation of the World occurred in Elul and Tishri, at Rosh Hashanah time, the Talmud preserves another view: that the Creation occurred in Nisan, the first of the months, in spring.

Evidently to the rabbis it felt particularly apppropriate that the birthday of the sun should be at the spring equinox, when the sun emerges from the womb of winter and crosses the Equator coming northward. The Torah teaches that the sun was created at the beginning of the fourth day -- Tuesday evening, to use our present labels. So the moment when the sun is again where it was at the beginning comes in a year when the equinox as the rabbis defined it comes on Tuesday evening in Nisan.

Then why are we celebrating today the eighth of April? Surely it is not the equinox! The rabbis' calculation of the length of the year was a few minutes off and in 2, 000 years that has added up to a few weeks.

And why only every twenty eight years? By assigning Tuesday evening as the moment, the rabbis made the moment hard to come by. For the year does not divide into four equal seasons of full days. There is a day and a¬quarter left over. So if the equinox comes on a Tuesday evening this year, it will come next year a day and a quarter later. It will take four years for it to come 'round to the evening again and then it will be five days away from Tuesday. Only after seven times four years will the moment come back to a Tuesday evening.

By working out this cycle of twenty eight years, the rabbis accomplished something else: by celebrating the sun only once a generation, they gave us a way to look ahead and look back that is worthy of the sun.'

I woke the big boys up early and we headed out to the Tayelet - the Promenade overlooking the Old City - with everyone else, yawning and wrapped up in our sweaters against the early morning air of 6AM. I had decided to meet up at the end of the Tayelet, past the usual stopping points, and join in the celebrations being hosted by the Navah Tehilah community known for their hippy, dippy, multi-faith approach. They didn't dissapoint. Drums, guitars, chanting and song - it seemed just the right thing for the morning. The sun rose in the distance, the Judean Desert shimmering in the early morning light, the morning sun beginning to strengthen and warm us up. We all stood and wondered where we'd be in another 28 years. I put on my sunglasses against the always strong glare of the sun in this part of the world. We could hear the chanting of thousands of people at the Kotel. Wild. Completely hokey but so appropriate in this part of the world where mythology has a habit of coming alive on a regular basis.

We picked up Ira and Akiva and shared some pre-Pesach bagel and coffee. The morning light felt especially good on us.

Moadim L'Simchah.

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