Every twenty-eight years, for a few hours on a Wednesday morning in April, throngs of Jews fill streets, sidewalks, rooftops, and parks for one of the most infrequent rituals in Judaism. It marks the return of the sun to the exact place it occupied on the fourth day of Creation on the same day and at the same hour that the sun began to shine in the primordial heavens.
The Bircas haChammah ritual bears testimony to our faith that there is a Creator -- a constant Creator Who preserves and renews His universe -- and that there is a scheme and purpose to His creation.
"Raise your eyes on high and see Who created these," declares the Prophet Isaiah. Satellites and telescopes constantly reveal that the cosmos is greater and more complex than we could possibly imagine and make us marvel all the more at the greatness of the One Who brought it into existence. The Blessing of the Sun reminds us anew not only of what happened "In the beginning . . . " but also calls upon us to ponder our duty to fashion our lives and our planet to bring the purpose of Creation to fruition.
Unlike the monthly cycle of the moon, which is obvious, the 28-year cycle of the sun is not at all noticeable to the naked eye. How is it calculated? Was it known to the ancients? How do Jews reconcile the solar and lunar calendars? What are the appropriate prayers for this rare event, and what do they mean? What is the hashkafic/philosophical background and message of the observance? Why are there discrepancies in the astronomical calculations of the sages of the Talmud?
This comprehensive book answers these questions. It includes the complete prayer service for Bircas haChammah, with translation and commentary. It explains the astronomical calculations and illuminates the Talmudic background.
The author, Rabbi J. David Bleich, is an outstanding scholar, posek, Rosh Yeshivah, and prolific author, whose many books and articles present complex subjects with rare clarity and accuracy. He has researched the entire corpus of Rabbinic literature on this subject, including many rare works that have long been out of print. The result is a masterful treatment of a little known subject.
In his Overviews, Rabbi Nosson Scherman presents an eloquent and inspiring call for people to scale moral and spiritual heights, and to make themselves worthy servants of the One Who said, "Let there be luminaries in the firmament of the Heaven."
The first edition of this work appeared in 1980 and brought awareness of Bircas haChammah to multitudes of people to whom it was previously unknown. In the twenty-eight years since, Torah study has reached new heights in the English-speaking world. Let us pray that when tens of thousands of people hold this work and pronounce the blessing on a Wednesday morning in April, it will be with a resolve to bring new light to our own lives and to the world.