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Birkas Hachama – What’s up with it?

March 3, 2009

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So what is Birkas Hachama anyway?

Hint: It’s not this.

From chabad.org:

Every 28 years the sun returns to the exact position, at the same time of the week, that it occupied at the time of its creation—at the beginning of the fourth day of creation. A special blessing – called Birkat Hachamah, “the sun blessing” – is recited to mark this event. Due to the rarity of this event, this blessing is customarily recited amid large public gatherings of men, women and children.

On April 8th, the sun will not be in the same spot as it was at the time of creation. Even discounting the fact that the world was created in the month of Tishrei, and assuming that the world began in Spring, the positioning simply does not match up.

So here goes: The brocho of Birkas Hachama is said when the spring equinox, or the start of “tekufas Nissan” by Shmuel’s accounting of the solar year, occurs on the same time and the same day of the week as in the springtime preceding creation (year 0 -6 months) when it was “oloh b’machshovah” or conceived. This happens every 28 years.

For a heliocentric explanation of the sun’s rotation and its relation to the seasons see after the break.

For a geocentric, Torah-true version: With your imagination, drive a stake into the Earth, right at the tippety top, from the North to South Poles, securing its place in the galaxy. Continue imagining. Now picture the above presentation, but with the Earth remaining at center screen and static, while the sun and other bodies move around it. See how easy that is?

The theory of relativity (as I understand it) provides this leeway in choosing your point of reference. To the question: “which revolves around which” – the sun or the earth – the best response science can muster is “whichever is more convenient for purposes of calculation”. Torah, on the other hand, handling as it does with objective truths, insists on the earth’s position as central in the solar system.

(It has been brought to my attention that a possible problem with this explanation is that if everything revolves around the earth, including even the furthest-off stars, those stars would have to be traveling faster than the speed of light, an impossibility from the standpoint of modern physics.)

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7 comments

  1. Excellent


  2. this is interesting stuff, and not stuff i can read on other blogs. so let’s have some more of it!
    that last sentence… so according to the Torah, there are stars traveling faster than the speed of light? the sci-fi ramifications of this are fascinating…


  3. For more on this topic, check here.

    According to what’s written there, if we fix the Earth as the center of the universe, not only would the velocity of the stars be faster than the speed of light, but even a body so close as the planet Neptune would be traveling beyond that rate. So have at it, trekkies.

    Thus far regarding the question, and with it is reached a point beyond which I am not equipped to venture. If you can understand this gibberish, knock yourselves out.

    The conclusion is erroneous, however, since we are here dealing with a problem in the general and not in the special theory of relativity. In the special theory we can maintain the velocity 3\super. 100 cm/sec. as the limiting value because we allow only certain coordinate systems relative to which all velocities are to be measured. If we admit arbitrary coordinate systems, the number 3\super.00 cm/sec. can be exceeded. The limiting character of the velocity of light, however, can be maintained even in the general theory of relativity, yet the assertion is formulated differently. Given any two mass points, light signals will be the fastest connection between them. Light is the fastest messenger; it moves faster than any other means of communication from the same place and ate the same time. We formulated this property above with the aid of the concept first-signal. This principle is satisfied even if we assume that the coordinate system is rigidly connected to the earth. A light signal sent from the planet Neptune along a tangent to the planet’s orbit moves faster than the planet itself and will run away from it. Here light has an even greater velocity, although the planet itself already exceeds the velocity 3\super.00 cm/sec. This value has therefore no significance of completely arbitrary space-time measurements are admitted.


  4. Quiero decir, mmmm…. muy interesante.


  5. Special Relativity applies only to inertial (non-accelerating) coordinate systems. All rotating system are accelerating, as can be seen by the twin fictitious forces “centrifugal” and “Coriolis”. The speed of light cannot be exceeded in Special Relativity.

    In General Relativity, all non-singular local coordinate systems are permitted, including accelerating frames such as the rotating Earth. In General Relativity, the speed of light CAN be exceeded, but never in a local frame, only between frames that are displaced from one another.

    If this sounds difficult and complicated, it is because it IS difficult and complicated.


  6. The stars way out there are NOT traveling at the speed of light. This is a classic question which the theory of general relativity resolves. The key is that space time is warped. I saw the explanation in a book once but unfortunately I’ve misplaced the book.


  7. this is cool. i don’t understand half of it, but when i write that Jewish sci-fi novel one day when i grow up, i know where to go to check out my facts.



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