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The once-in-every-28-years-ritual is upon us

Remember back in 1981 — 27 years ago! — the last time of the blessing of the sun? One may be forgiven for not keeping this rarest of Jewish rituals uppermost in one’s mind. But now that it is officially 5769 —  and next April will be 2009 — this once-in-every-28-years-ritual is almost upon us. It will occur on the day before next Passover, on Wednesday, April 8, 2009.

The blessing is over the return of the sun to its original position, at the same time of day, on the same day of the week, as it was at the moment of its creation. That will occur on Tuesday, April 7, 2009, with the blessing prescribed for the following morning.

The blessing itself is simple. Its opening follows the form of most Hebrew blessings; for instance, the blessing over wine, made every week at Sabbath kiddush — “Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the Universe . . . ” The conclusion of the Blessing of the Sun is pristine: “ . . . Who has fashioned the works of creation.”

The rarest ritual in Judaism invokes the basic point of ritual: acknowledgment of the One Above as the source of all that is good, from sunlight to sustenance.

The quantities consumed in the Western world vastly outstrip anything imaginable in earlier societies, not to mention in most places in Africa and other forlorn places of today. From plastic cups to Sports Utility Vehicles, our habits of waste have led to global warming, pollution of air and water, the creation of unimaginably large garbage dumps mellifluously and erroneously called “landfills.” Medical specialities deal with diseases caused by toxic materials from lead-based paint to asbestos. In all this waste and misappropriation, we violate the Torah.

As Rabbi Alfred Cohen has observed, Noah was commanded to gather living creatures of all species to take with him into his ark before he could save himself. The rabbi continues (in the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society):    

“When we recite a blessing upon seeing trees blossom in the spring, or upon viewing one of the majesties of creation, or to sanctify the New Moon, we declare our appreciation to the Alm-ghty for the gorgeous world He created for our enjoyment and benefit. As we recite the blessing over the sun, rejoicing in the perfection of His creation and in awe at the perfection of the universe, we should fortify our determination to respect and safeguard this beautiful legacy for future generations.”

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