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A New Beginning    

A New Beginning

Rabbi Lazer Brody discusses the inner significance of “Birkat HaChama,” the blessing of the sun that occurs only once every 28 years, and falls this Wednesday, 8 April, 2009.


Rebbe Nachman had a beautiful way of living his life. Nothing was ever routine. Everything was exhilarating and exciting. How could he do that? Simple – every new day was a new beginning for him. Even more so, if he ever felt a setback, he’d declare a new beginning in the middle of the day and start all over. Sometimes he’d do this several times in one day (see Shivchei HaRan, 6).

Rebbe Alter Teplicker takes Rebbe Nachman’s principle of a new beginning and applies it to hitbodedut (see Hishtapchut Hanefesh, 44). At the beginning of the day’s personal prayer session, we should declare, “Hashem, today I shall begin to cling to You!”
The above ploy is not some inane way of talking nonsense to ourselves. Whenever we declare a new beginning, we wipe the slate clean of yesterday’s excess emotional baggage, like pushing the “delete” button on the computer. Rebbe Alter Teplicker says that whenever we declare a new beginning, even if yesterday was good, today will be even better. And, if yesterday wasn’t exactly what we dreamed of, then declaring a new beginning will certainly be beneficial today. Either way, we’re in the winner’s circle. Not only that, but by declaring a new beginning, we constantly rejuvenate ourselves.
Creation declares a new beginning every twenty eight years. Once every 28 years, the Sun returns to the position it occupied when it was created at the beginning of the fourth day of creation:
“And Hashem made the two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night and the stars. And Hashem placed them in the sky of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from darkness; and Hashem saw that it was good. And it was evening and it was morning, the fourth day (Breishit 1:14-19).
Our Sages used this opportunity to initiate a special prayer acknowledging God's might and His creation of the world. This Blessing is known as The Blessing on the Sun, or “Birkat HaChama.”
The “Birkat HaChama” lands on a very special day this year – Wednesday morning, 14 Nissan, the eve of Passover (8 April, 2009). From an astronomic point of view, everything proceeds as usual. The Sun will set as usual on 7 April, and will rise as usual on 8 April. The Sun, moon, planets and stars will not be aligned in the same pattern that Hashem placed them on the fourth day of creation. As such, we see with our own eyes that all of creation literally starts anew, having returned to its original takeoff point. Here’s how:
The sun’s takeoff point is the start of the fourth day of creation, which begins on Tuesday at 6:00 pm. Since a solar year lasts 365 1/4 days - or 52 weeks plus a remainder of 1 1/4 days - it follows that after one year, the Sun will return to the vernal (spring) equinox, but will fall 1 1/4 days later in the week: Wednesday at midnight. After two years, the Sun will return to the vernal equinox, but it will now be 2 x 1 1/4 days later in the week: Thursday at 6:00 am. Only after 28 years, will the Sun return to the spring equinox on Tuesday at 6:00 pm.
We recite the Birkat HaChama in the morning, preferably after morning prayers, standing, and preferably with a minyan (quorum of 10). Some authorities hold that the Blessing can be said until the end of the 3rd hour of the day. Yet others hold that it can be said until chatzot (midday).
The blessing recited on this occasion is “Oseh maaseh bereishit,” that God created the works of creation. This is the same blessing recited when one sees lightning and other works of nature. However, because of the rarity of Birkat HaChama, additional prayers are recited to mark the momentous occasion. These typically include Psalms 19, 121, 148 and others. Also recited is a portion of the Talmudic passage from tractate Berachot 59b, “The Rabbis taught: Anyone seeing the Sun at its turning point... should say "Blessed is He who made the Creation". And when is this? Abaya said: every 28th year,” which relates the source of the practice. Various relevant Biblical verses are also said, as well as the sun’s song from Perek Shira: “The Sun says: ‘The sun (covered by) the moon stands in its abode; they proceed by the light of Your arrows and by the flash of Your glittering spear’ (Habakuk 3:11).” That notwithstanding, there is no official set text for the Birkat Hachama.
What’s the inner significance of all this? If creation can make a new beginning every 28 years, so can we.
People say, “I’m too old to change.” That saying in itself makes a person take a giant step toward senility.
If you’re in your 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s or no matter what, you don’t have to continue a gray existence. This moment, you can dramatically change your life and declare a new beginning. At 40, Rabbi Akiva declared a new beginning, came back to Hashem, and ultimately became the scholar who laid the foundation for the Mishna, the codification of our oral law.
It’s never too late to declare a new beginning, but don’t tarry. Some opportunities come by only once in 28 years.

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  Who can understand the ways of HaShem?
Daniel Faulkner4/7/2009 4:15:06 PM

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