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Fresh Living

sun-blessing-judaism-finger-hold-photo.jpgSometimes holistic spirituality and traditional religion cross paths, and today’s “Blessing of the Sun” ritual that Jews will observe just before Passover begins is one of those moments.  In honor of this rare Jewish astrological phenomenon, we offer a guest post from Michael Kress, Beliefnet’s managing editor and friend of Fresh Living:

This morning, I rushed out the door to get to an 8 a.m. recitation of birkat hachamah, the prayer on the Sun. After all, who wants to be late to an event that happens only once every 28 years?

The blessing marks the moment when, our sages taught, the Sun is at the exact spot it was at the moment of creation, a powerful link to our past, to nature, and to our Creator. I remember the last occurrence of this rarest of Jewish rituals. I was in kindergarten, or maybe it was first grade, and our whole school gathered in the playground to gaze upward and… recite a blessing and listen to a discussion of its importance. The details of the day remain hazy in my memory, aside from being impressed by the event’s rarity, a memory I’d tucked into the deep recesses of my brain and dredged up only recently, as I learned that it was time yet again to step outside and bless the Sun.

This morning, I made it in time to join a small gathering of people from my synagogue on a sidewalk nearby. But as I ran up to the group and spotted a friend, he shook his head. The blessing wasn’t happening–the sky was cloudy, and apparently, to bless the sun one must actually be able to see it. Twenty-eight years, only to be stymied by an overcast morning. Perhaps this was a metaphor or a lesson. The dark clouds hovering over our depressed economy, the impermanence of things, our inability to control the world despite our best efforts, the need to appreciate what we have at every moment–take your pick, and build your sermon around it. Whatever the message, it was depressing to look up in unison and stare at the gray clouds where a shining Sun should have been. Where will we all be in another 28 years?

This being the day Passover starts, I left the gathering to go burn my chametz, the remaining scraps of bread we cleaned from our apartment last night. It’s an ancient tradition that marks the end of the intense housecleaning period leading up to Passover, a time when we literally scrub our homes, remove food that is forbidden on Passover, and finish off by burning a few pieces, a ceremonial act in a very real flame. Usually, it’s a moment of joy and relief: the difficult preparations are over, Passover is just about to start, and with it the seders and a celebration of our freedom. This year, though, coming right after the birkat hachamah disappointment, I felt a twinge of sadness watching my scraps of bagel singe in the flames. I thought of missed opportunities, moments passed, regrets, the dark clouds, real and metaphoric.

But now, as I type these words, the sun is peeking through the clouds, and I have all day to recite the blessing: “Blessed are You, LORD, our God, King of the Universe who makes the works of Creation.” I think I will duck outside and do just that, gazing at the beautiful sun on this crisp spring morning, feeling suddenly thankful for what I have, looking ahead rather than backward, and getting excited for the seder tonight and all that Passover will bring. May we all find our own freedom this Passover and always.

(image via: http://greenprophet.com/page/4/)
 

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