Birkas Hachama – What’s up with it?March 3, 2009
So what is Birkas Hachama anyway?
Hint: It’s not this.
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.)