Every twenty-eight years an unusual observance lands on the Jewish calendar: Birkat ha-Hammah. Based on the calculations of Shmu’el ha-Yarhi (who? never mind!), the vernal equinox occurs at the same time that Genesis indicates for the creation of the sun: the eve of the fourth day, Wednesday. Traditionally – such as tradition is with twenty-eight-year intervals – celebrations occur as the sun rises in the morning. This year is the twenty-eighth year, and Birkat ha-Hammah will occur on April 8.
In reading the above paragraph, you already can identify certain logical problems, not the least of which is that the vernal equinox is astronomically on March 21. But in the spirit of renewing ancient tradition in contemporary iterations, the Rabbinical Assembly has produced special study and worship material prepared by one of our best scholars, Rabbi Joseph Prouser, and Gary Kitmacher, Manager of Communications for NASA’s International SpaceStation Program. Additionally, Abe Friedman and Rabbi Leonard Gordon have produced Massekhet Hakhammah: Tractate of the Sun, study material on the environment in the context of this event.
Just so you know how special this particular occurrence is, only once every dozen or so cycles of twenty-eight years does Birkat ha-Hammah fall on the day preceding Pesach, that is, the day of the Fast of the First-born. We will use this material for the special siyyum that we hold to exempt the first-born from the fast beginning with our regular minyan at the special time of 7:00 on Wednesday morning, April 8.
If you would like to review the study material, you can access it at www.ritualwell.org (then follow the link in the upper right hand corner of the home page) or go directly there through: www.ritualwell.org/holidays/sitefolder.2008-09-16.5411107743/primaryobject.2009-02-02.7516086329.
This occurrence will be only the third in my lifetime – I was an infant for the first and skeptical of it for the second. We will be experiencing it together, and hoping to learn enough about it to make it more meaningful in 2037, when I will be 84 (and a half). So get up early and join us – and then go home and burn your chametz!!
A happy and kosher Pesach from our home to yours.
THIS MONTH’S BIG QUESTION
for the 5770/2009 High Holy Day Reflection Booklet
#5 What day in your life (good or bad) would you live over?
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