I pride myself on at least being able to name the majority of Jewish holidays, but this one completely escaped me. Birkat HaHammah, the blessing of the sun, occurs once every 28 years… the next celebration will happen at the beginning of Passover.
We learned that Rabbis over the Babylonian Talmud discerned that the sun must have been created on the 3rd day of Nissan (always a Tuesday) at 6 pm. Due to these specific criterion, the sun will only be in the exact same place on 3 Nissan at 6 pm every 28 years. Hence the long lapse between blessing it!
Birkat HaHammah has always been observed by the Orthodox community but this year, several liberal Jews are catching on as well. In Safed, Israel, a place where haredim and hippies mix, the latter is having a Sun Blessing Festival— in April, on the Gregorian calendar.
One might wonder what D.C.’s sister city, Beit Shemesh (house of the sun) is doing to mark the occasion? 😛
Beyond learning to how to praise the sun, (find some more resources here,) Jonina also taught us about the seven species of Israel, various food products that could be culled from the Biblical land of Israel.
In modern times, Neot Kedumim strives to take a strip of land between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and restore it to its biblical landscape. Check them out!
The Jewish Study Center, a non-profit, independent organization, which offers a variety of classes every year, now has its own Facebook page! Be sure you friend them, so you can stay in the loop.