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SUN, BLESSING OF THE:

Formula of benediction recited on the day when the sun enters upon a new cycle, which occurs on the first Wednesday of Nisan every twenty-eight years. The present cycle commenced on the 5th of Nisan, 5657= April 7, 1897. According to Abaye, the cycle commences with the vernal equinox at the expiration of Tuesday (sunset) and the beginning of Wednesday eve when the planet Saturn is in the ascendency (Ber. 59b). This is calculated by the calendar of Samuel. Yarḥina'ah, which allots to the solar year 365¼ days, and asserts that each of the seven planets rules over one hour of the day in the following sequence: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, the sun, Venus, Mercury, and the moon. Consequently the first planet, Saturn, is 7½ hours advanced at the beginning of the summer solstice, and 30 hours (1¼ days) at the turn of the year, or 5 days in 4 years, at the end of which this planet again takes its place at the beginning of the eve of the vernal (Nisan) equinox. This period is called "maḥzor ḳaṭan" (short cycle). A space offive days follows every such cycle, so that the second cycle begins on Monday, the third on Saturday, the fourth on Thursday, the fifth on Tuesday, the sixth on Sunday, and the seventh on Friday. Seven short cycles complete a "maḥzor gadol," or long cycle, of twenty-eight years; then Saturn returns to its original position at the first hour of Wednesday eve, and a new cycle begins (ib.; Rashi ad loc.).

The ceremony of blessing the sun is held to commemorate the birth of that luminary on Wednesday eve of the Creation, which it is claimed was the exact time when the planets, including the sun and the moon and beginning with Saturn, were for the first time set in motion in the firmament by the Almighty. This calculation became obsolete after the adoption of R. Adda's calendar, which makes the solar year about five minutes less (see Calendar), thus upsetting the theory of the coincidence of the Nisan equinox with Saturn at the beginning of Wednesday eve every twenty-eight years. Nevertheless the ritual was still maintained, the celebration being fixed for the first Wednesday in Nisan, which necessarily rendered the date irregular, sometimes as many as sixteen days past the equinox. The ceremony originally began after sunrise, although most of the congregations in modern times commence it after the morning prayer, when the sun is about 90° above the eastern horizon.

The blessing begins with a few appropriate verses: Ps. lxxxiv. 12, lxxii. 5, lxxv. 2; Mal. iii. 20; Ps. xcvii. 6; and Ps. cxlviii. in full. Then the benediction of the Talmud, "Praised be the Lord our God, Maker of the genesis of Creation," is recited, being followed by Ps. xix. and cxxi. Then are inserted the reference of Abaye in Berakot and the baraita of R. Hananiah. b. 'Aḳashyah (end of Makkot), "Ḳaddish di-Rabbanan." The blessing ends with the following prayer:

"May it please Thee, O Lord our God and God of our fathers, as Thou hast given us life and sustenance and hast permitted us to reach and celebrate this event, so mayest Thou prolong our life and sustenance and make us worthy again to render the blessing on the return of this cycle, which may reach us in gladness in the sight of Thy city rebuilt and in the enjoyment of Thy service; that we may be privileged to see the face of Thy Messiah; and that the prophecy may be fulfilled [citing Isa. xxx. 26]."

The blessing is concluded with "'Alenu" and "Ḳaddish Yatom." An account of the celebration of 1869, in which was included dancing by the children, is given in "Or ha-Ḥammah" (p. 5). The blessing of the sun was celebrated by the Jews in New York city in 1897 in Tompkins square. The completion of the cycle will occur during the twentieth century on April 1, 1925; March 18, 1953; and April 8, 1981. Compare New Moon, Blessing of the.

Bibliography:
  • David Meldola, Boḳer Yizraḥ, Leghorn, 1785;
  • Jekuthiel Aryeh Gershon, Sha'are Mizraḥ, Cracow, 1896;
  • Solomon (Zalmon) Segner, Or ha-Ḥammah, Munkacs, 1897;
  • La Benedizione del Sole, in Il Vessillo Israelitico (1897), xlv. 73-76;
  • Luncz, Luaḥ Ereẓ Yisrael, 5657 (= 1897), p. 2.
W. B. J. D. E.
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