Birkat HaHammah

A ritual to commemorate the creation of the sun.

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An Enduring Tradition

But Jewish traditions have been known to survive even when they are scientifically dubious, and this is no exception. Jews continue to recite Birkat Hahammah every 28 years, according to Abaye's calculation.

The blessing is recited on the morning after that special 6:00 PM occurrence, when the sun is visible. The exact text is:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יהוה אֱלהֵינוּ מֶלֶך-הָעולָם עושֵׂה מַעֲשֵׂה בְרֵאשִׁית
Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha'olam oseh ma'aseh bereishit.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who affects the work of creation.

Today, some communities perform an expanded service based on the Mishnah Berurah, which reported on an 1813 celebration of Birkat Hahammah of R. Moses Sofer, the Hatam Sofer. The service consists of Psalm 148, Birkat Hahammah, El Adon (a song from the Shabbat morning service), Psalm 19, Aleinu, and Kaddish. Sometimes other selections from Psalms or other liturgical poetry are included.

Ritualwell has information for contemporary Birkhat Hahammah celebrations, including ideas about how to make the year of Birkat Hahammah a year of heightened environmental awareness.

Birkat Hahammah is one of the least frequently practiced Jewish rituals. In 1981, my mother was 9 months pregnant when she participated in this ritual. I was born one week later. On April 8, 2009 I will bless the sun in similar fashion, with my new baby daughter in tow. Who knows where we'll all be in 2037?

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Shoshanna Lockshin

Shoshanna Lockshin is a former editor at MyJewishLearning.com.