SUN, BLESSING OF THE (Heb. בִּרְכַּת הַחַמָּה), a prayer service in which the sun is blessed in thanksgiving for its creation and its being set into motion in the firmament on the fourth day of the world (Gen. 1:16–19). The ceremony is held once every 28 years. It takes place after the morning prayer, when the sun is about 90° above the eastern horizon, on the first Wednesday of the month of Nisan. The date is based on calculations by the amora *Abbaye, according to whom the vernal equinox cycle (called maḥzor gadol) always begins then (Ber. 59b). Although Abbaye's method became obsolete after the adoption of R. *Adda's calendar, the ceremony has not fallen into desuetude. The order of the recital is as follows: Psalms 84:12, 72:5; 75:2, Malachi 3:20, Psalms 97:6 and 148, the benediction: "Praised be the Maker of creation," which is followed by Psalms 19 and 121, the hymn El Adon (of the Shaḥarit prayer of the Sabbath), the baraita of Abbaye (Ber. 59b), and the quotation of an aggadah by R. Hananiah b. Akashya (Mak. 3:16). The rite ends with a short thanksgiving prayer in which the congregation expresses gratitude for having been sustained until this day, and the hope to live and reach the days of the Messiah and of the fulfillment of the prophesy of Isaiah "and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of the seven days" (Isa. 30:26). The dates for the ceremony in the second half of the 20th century were April 8, 1953 and March 18, 1981. For the first half of the 21st century the dates are April 1, 2009 and March 18, 2037
Sh. Ar., OḤ 229:2; Maim. Yad, Berakhot, 10:18; S. Segner, Or ha-Ḥammah (1897); J.M. Tukaczinsky, Kunteres Birkat ha-Ḥammah (1897); Eisenstein, Yisrael, S.V. Birkat ha-Ḥammah; I. Epstein (ed.), The Babylonian Talmud, Zera'im, 1 (1948), 369–71n.; ET, 4 (1952), 453–55.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.