Every 28 years, Jews around the world celebrate the moment when, according to ancient tradition, the sun returns to the position in the heavens where it stood at the precise time and day of the world’s creation
At the first rays of sunrise on this day of blessing, we are to go outside, face east and recite:
Blessed are You, Adonai, our God and God of all the universe, who makes all things in creation.
The next solar celebration marking this event, called Birkat Hahammah, the blessing of the sun, will occur on Wednesday morning, April 8, 2009. At Sunset on April 8, 2009 we begin the first Seder for Passover. Though this is a coincidence, it opens the door for the myriad ways to connect the freedoms offered by the Sun's energy and the Exodus story.
This celebration will mark the 206th cycle of the sun's full return to its time and place at creation.
Originally, the moment selected for this celebration was the spring equinox. But, you might ask, if the equinox occurs in late March (around March 21), why do we celebrate it in early April? While the answer is a bit complex, the short explanation is that the original annual calculations were based on the Julian calendar which counted the year as having 365.25 days. The true solar year, however, is closer to 365.242199.
While that might not seem like a big difference, over a thousand years these minutes add up to a variance of 7.81 days. While the Gregorian calendar corrected for this disjuncture by dropping 10 days from the calendar in the year 1582 c.e., the rabbinic calendar did not make this adjustment. Add the leap days that were not added on the centuries divisible by 400, and you get an 18 day discrepancy.
The astronomical accuracy of this celebration aside, the thrust and message of this celebration endures. We are bidden to take a moment, once, twice or three times in our lifetime, depending on the span of days we are gifted, and to turn our attention to this amazing, blazing ball in the sky which gives us light, warmth, comfort, and energy.
And then we turn and thank God for this divine, celestial goodness that God has bestowed upon us.