Concept

Birkat Hachama

Summary
Birkat Hachama (ברכת החמה, "Blessing of the Sun") refers to a rare Jewish blessing that is recited to the Creator, thanking God for creating the sun. The blessing is recited when the Sun completes its cycle every 28 years on a Tuesday at sundown. Jewish tradition says that when the Sun completes this cycle, it has returned to its position when the world was created. Because the blessing needs to be said when the Sun is visible, the blessing is postponed to the following day, on Wednesday morning. According to Judaism, the Sun has a 28-year solar cycle known as machzor gadol (מחזור גדול, "the great cycle"). A solar year is estimated as 365.25 days and the "Blessing of the Sun", being said at the beginning of this cycle, is thus recited every 10,227 (28 times 365.25) days. The last time that it was recited was on April 8, 2009 (14 Nisan 5769 on the Hebrew calendar.) From an astronomical point of view, there is nothing special to these dates; e.g. the Sun, Moon, planets and stars will not be aligned in any specific pattern. The text of the blessing itself is as follows: ברוך אתה ה' אלהינו מלך העולם עושה מעשה בראשית Blessed are You, LORD, our God, King of the Universe who made the works of creation. The primary source for the institution of Birkat Hachama is a Beraita mentioned in the Talmud: תנו רבנן הרואה חמה בתקופתה...אומר ברוך עושה מעשה בראשית Our rabbis taught: "One who sees the sun at its turning point...recites the blessing of the maker of works of creation." The middle of this clause in the beraita (elided here) speaks of other astronomical phenomena, the interpretation of which is ambiguous. The Gemara clarifies when the 'turning point' (תקופה) mentioned in the beraita occurs: ואימת הוי אמר אביי כל כ״ח שנין And when does this happen? Abaye answers: every 28 years... Next, the gemara explains the basis of the 28 years: והדר מחזור ונפלה תקופת ניסן בשבתאי באורתא דתלת נגהי ארבע when the cycle renews and the "season of Nisan" (i.e. vernal equinox) falls in Saturn, on the evening of Tuesday going into Wednesday.
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