Jews in Israel are blessing the sun at this hour in the once-every-28-year event that marks the moment when the alignment of the sun is the same as it was, on the same day of the week, as at Creation.
Thousands of people gathered at the Western Wall (Kotel) to pray, see the sun rise over the ancient holy site and recite several Psalms and the short prayer, "Blessed is He Who Creates as in the Creation." The blessing is often cited when seeing wonders of the Creation and is not a specific prayer for the Blessing of the Sun.
A ceremony also was held at the ancient fortress of Masada for what may have been the first time in 2,000 years.
The even began in New Zealand, when it still was night in Israel, moved on to Europe and will be observed in the United States when it is early afternoon in Israel.
Wellington, New Zealand Rabbi Chaim Dovrat said it was a "re-staging of the heavens as they were at the beginning of time."
The event has attracted the interest of tens of thousands of Jews who are not familiar with the tradition. "This is the first time I've ever heard of this holiday. If you want to give your kids a religious identity, this'll give them something fun to remember," Jen Sonenklare of Connecticut in the U.S. told the Associated Press.
The last time the Blessing of the Sun took place was in 1981, when one ceremony was held on the observation deck of the southern building of the World Trade Center Twin Towers, which Muslim terrorists destroyed in the September 11, 2001 attack. This year, a ceremony will take place on the porch of a penthouse near Ground Zero.
The blessing may be said only if the sun is visible and should be recited in a direction other than the sun to prevent anyone from thinking that the prayer is directed to the sun and not to the Almighty.
The sun was created on the fourth day, and the ceremony will not take place again until 2037.