Significance of Birkat Hahammah

In Birkat Hahammah (the Blessing of the Sun), the rabbis acknowledged the power of nature, but put the emphasis on its Creator.

Print this page Print this page

Creator Before Creation

Let’s celebrate the Creator of this awesome orb, they say, but only once every 28 years. Let’s set this celebration to the precise moment, day, and place of creation, as if to say, it is only because God made this gift that we have it at all. To schedule this celebration at the moment of the sun’s creation is to emphasize the creation of the sun over the sun itself.

The word “sun” does not even appear in the blessing. Nor is this blessing unique to this moment. It is said whenever we see lightning, grand mountains, or shooting stars, or even a lovely sunrise or sunset any day of the year.

The sun, this celebration seems to be telling us, is a remarkable force in the world. But it is just one piece of God’s remarkable world. This celebration, then, is a brilliant exercise in containment. At one and the same moment, it both extols and subdues the sun, and elevates and contains nature.

A Contemporary Message

That being said, Birkat Hahammah of 2009 gives us the remarkably poignant and timely opportunity to celebrate the message and gifts of the sun, and all the renewable energy that it creates: solar power (direct and indirect), wind energy, ocean energy, and biomass energy.

Solar energy is a crucial source of renewable energy, and an essential balm for healing our environmental misdeeds. What this Birkat Hahammah allows us to do is reconnect with one fundamental message of the Torah. The reason, we are told, that humanity was created: to tend carefully to the bountiful, fragile goodness of the world. Its continued health depends on us. And we on it.

Did you like this article?  MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.

Please consider making a donation today.

Rabbi Nina B. Cardin

Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin the Director of the Baltimore Jewish Environmental Network and past General Consultant to COEJL.