Keep Your Sunny Side Up

Another unique example of the spirit of renewal.

Rabbi S. Weiss,

Judaism לבן ריק
לבן ריק
Arutz 7

The memory is as vivid today as the moment it last happened - nearly three decades ago. I was the NCSY youth director in Dallas, Texas. Blessed with an eager and active cadre of several dozen spiritually-mobile young people, we stayed up all night together studying, singing and sharing ideas about Torah and Jewish life.

And then, at dawn's first light, we davened Shacharit and greeted the sun by reciting the blessing that comes around just once each 28 years - Birkat HaChamah.

Jewish life is largely about renewal. We start each day by praising G-d, who "renews daily the act of Creation;" we say Kiddush Levanah, celebrating the moon's renewal each month; and we close out every year by atoning for the past and appealing to HaShem for a new "lease on life" in the year ahead. The Blessing of the Sun, recited when the sun appears in the same place in the Heavens as it was at Creation, is another unique example of this spirit of renewal.

This year - for the eleventh time in Jewish history according to computer experts - Birkat HaChamahwill coincide
It seems to me that Pesach is the most appropriate time for Birkat HaChamah.
with erev Pesach. Other celebrated occurrences of Birkat HaChamah on erev Pesach were the year of the Exodus and the year of the Purim story.

The coming morning of 14 Nissan - with the siyum of the first-borns and the burning of the chametz already on the agenda - will make for a very hectic day, with the Blessing on the Sun and its accompanying tefilot only adding to the fun and frenzy.

But it seems to me that Pesach is the most appropriate time for Birkat HaChamah. Passover, after all, is renewal par excellence. We had to renew our commitment to each other, shattered when we sold out - literally - our brother Yosef. We had to renew our faith in HaShem, which we graphically illustrated when we stood at Mt. Sinai and accepted the Torah - the "spiritual liberation" that completed the physical freedom we achieved on Pesach.

And, perhaps most importantly, we had to renew our belief in ourselves as holy, valuable souls who could plot our own destiny and choose to live dignified lives of purpose and productivity. We had to shed our slave image and return to being "HaShem's first-born" - a unique people with a unique destiny.

Each of us, in our own way, needs a kind of yardstick or measure to gauge our progress in life. Periodic events like Birkat HaChamah are one such measure. As my good friend E. W. (my age, obviously) pointed out, I spent my first Birkat HaChamah in my mother's stomach and my second in the early stages of my career. As the third approaches, I have to ask myself: Have I justified my own creation? If not, then there is still time to do better.

As sure as the sun rises, G-d always gives us another chance.