Monday, April 6, 2009

So what if Birchat Hachama isn't "true"?


DovBear points out, here and here, that Birchat Hachama, the blessing over the sun, recited once every 28 years, and which falls on this Wednesday, isn't accurate in its claim that it happens when the sun is in the same place in the sky at the time of the creation of the world, 5,769 years ago.

But does that matter?

Even before reading his first post on the topic, and before looking into the background, I assumed that the stated reason for Birkat Hachama was not literally true. It can only be true if one believes in a literal sheshet yimei bereishit (6 days of creation).

But like many other practices in traditional Judaism whose origins may not be "true" in a literal sense, I will still say the bracha without any discomfort or loss of emotional significance. Judaism is an evolving religion - it always has been. Therefore, every evolving tradition is meaningful in the history of its very practice, not just in its origins.

And a tradition going back 2 millenia, where Jews gathered to say a bracha honoring the Borei HaOlam every 28 years, is significant enough. It is an event - an opportunity to gather with other Jews and acknowlege in a deep sense that Hashem created the world. So what if it's not literally accurate in its astronomical claims?

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