Kingdom of Priests

The Jewish web has been awash with excitement about the Blessing of the Sun, or Birkat Hachama, that happens only once in 28 years, on the Eve of Passover, and occurred this morning. Being the contrarian I am, I couldn’t quite get into it till moments before it was too late.

Surprisingly here in the Seattle the weather was cloudy  — that never happens in Seattle! — and so saying the blessing at its proper time, which requires being able to see the sun, became dicey. Just moments before the deadline for reciting the brief Hebrew formulation, I was outside on the back porch with our kids, straining for a glimpse at least of the outline of the golden orb. Without that peek of sun, you can’t include God’s name in the benediction.
Just when I was about the give up, for the briefest instance, a patch in the clouds thinned and I could just make out the sun’s shape. Immediately, I recited the blessing, thanking God for the “work of Creation.” A second later, the sun disappeared again.

Rabbi David Lapin has a brief and insightful essay on the meaning of Birkat Hachama on his invaluable website IAwaken, an amazing resource of online recorded Torah teaching. Excerpt:

The moon governs our months, known in Hebrew as Chodesh, which means new. The sun governs our year, Shannah in Hebrew, which means recycle or repetition. We need both disciplines: We need to build “grooves”, seder, for ourselves by constant repetition. These grooves create habits that guarantee at least some measure of consistent behavior and even achievement. Our davening [prayer] is a daily “groove”. So are our Yamim Tovim and Shabbat [festivals and Sabbath]. However if all we do is function in grooves, those grooves become ruts, and we become stale and stagnant. In addition to our seder, our grooves, we also need newness, vitality, experimentation, and exploration. We need chidush. The moon represents this chidush, this newness and innovation. The sun with its constancy, predictability and stability represents our seder. We need both. The moon wanes and grows; the sun is unvarying.

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