Monday, February 23, 2009

Quick grab your binoculars!

Comet Lulin is speeding by us! The best day to see this new comet that was apparently formed when our solar system was, is tonight February 24. Comet Lulin is a special treat since it won't be back this way for another thousand years. It is also an unusual comet because it has a tail and an antitail. The antitail is opposite the tail of the comet. Another backward fact about Lulin is it's orbit. It is ecliptic (backwards), meaning it is orbiting in the opposite directions of the planets. Lastly, it is traveling at such a speed that if you look at it through binoculars or a telescope you may be able to actually perceive it's movement! I find it so interesting all these phenomenon are happening now! Here it is Rosh Chodesh Adar and we have a comet to see, the last one I saw was Haley's. This year is also the hakhel year and the year to bless the sun. Apparently our solar system is a happening place, don't you agree?

Blessing of the Sun

There is a lot of talk lately, particularly in blog-o-sphere, about the Blessing over the Sun, which will be occurring this year on April 8, 2009. It is only recited once every 28 years and it is taught in the Gemara that this is when the Sun returns to the exact same position it had at the time of Creation. Most of us are pretty clueless about what it is and what is involved, so I looked it up and found some good info on Wikipedia and Below is from the website.

What is Birkat Hachama (Blessing over the Sun)?

The Askmoses Answer:

The Sun

The sun was created on the fourth day of Creation.

In its apparent motion in the ecliptic, the sun has four 'turning points' which mark the beginnings of the four respective seasons. These points are generically referred to in Jewish literature as the Tekufot (sing. Tekufah). They are: the two equinoctial points when the sun crosses the equator at the beginning of spring and autumn respectively, and 'turns' from one side of the equator to the other; and the two solstices, when the sun is at its maximum distance, or declination, from the equator, at one or other side of it, at the beginning of summer and winter respectively, and instead of progressively increasing its declination it 'turns' to decrease it progressively.

In the week of creation at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, which is the beginning of the fourth day, the sun made its debut: the original Tekufah.

Every 28 years the Tekufah will recur not only at the same time of the day, but also on the same day of the week.

The Cycle

Now, A complete solar cycle consists of 365 1/4 days, or 52 weeks 1 day and six hours; which means every consecutive year the Tekufah occurs 1 1/4 days later in the week. So in the following year (after creation) spring began early Thursday at midnight (one day of the week and 6 hours after Tuesday at 6:00 p.m.). The following year it began at 6:00 a.m. on Friday, the following year at noon on Shabbat, and the year after that at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday.

Every 4 years it occurs at the same time of the day but (1 1/4 X 4 =) 5 days later in the week. Every 28 years (10227 days) the Tekufah will recur not only at the same time of the day, but also on the same day of the week.

The Date

Since the sun and moon were created on the 4th day, the beginning of the 28 years cycle is always at the vernal equinox at 6 p.m. on Tuesday evening (the beginning of the fourth day). Birkat Hachama is thus always on a Wednesday morning (when the sun is actually visible).

The date of the month, however, changes. Since Birkat Hachama follows the solar cycle whereas the Jewish calendar follows (for the most part) the lunar cycle, the Hebrew date for this varies widely: in the past 400 years, Birkat Hachama has been said as early as the 27th of Adar II (in 5461 [1701]) and as late as the 26th of Nissan (in 5545 [1785] and 5629 [1869]).

The Gregorian date also varies, albeit slightly, changing every century that the Gregorian calendar skips a leap date (i.e. when there is no February 29 in years ending in "00", not divisible by 400). Therefore, in the 19th Century Birkat Hachama was said on April 7. It switched to April 8 when there was no February 29, 1900. After 2100, when February 29 will not occur, it will switch to April 9.

The Ceremony

Our Rabbis taught:3 "He who sees the sun at its [original] Tekufah... should say: 'Blessed be He who makes the work of creation'. And when does this happen? Abaye said: Every twenty eight years when the cycle begins again and the Nisan [Spring] equinox falls in Saturn on the evening of Tuesday, going into Wednesday."

The actual blessing is:

Boruch attah ado-nai elo-heinu melech haolam oseh maaseh bereishit.
[Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, King of the Universe, Who makes the Work of Creation].

Additional prayers are said before and after the blessing.4 It is preferable to celebrate this event with an early-morning outdoor communal ceremony, and if a Minyan is present the ceremony is concluded with the mourner's Kaddish.


* 1. Talmud tractate Berachot 59b
* 2. Birkat Hachama follows the solar (rather than Jewish) calendar, and is thus determined by the Gregorian (rather than Jewish) date.
* 3. Talmud tractate Brachot 59b, codified in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 229:2
* 4. Before: Psalm 148. After: Ei-l Adon (from the Shabbat morning prayer); Psalm 19; and Aleinu. See Mishna Brura 229:8. See also Teshuvos Chasam Sofer 1:56. There are various other customs as to which psukim and tefillos are recited before and after the bracha.

Friday, February 13, 2009


This morning I saw a picture of a friend who several months ago made aliyah, and my heart felt sad because I miss her. I started to think about the many people who have stumbled in and out of my life and how much every one of them meant to me.

Later that day another friend wrote to me to share some sadness she had regarding maintaining friendships over the years. She asked me why I was still her friend. She and I have been friends, to a greater or lesser degree, for about 16 years now. It is amazing to me to have known someone that long and to see how they have grown, particularly to share in all the hardships they have been through and lived to tell about. Their strengths and perseverance have been an inspiration to my own life. In fact, every friend I have ever had has helped me, truly. Even friendships that lasted less than a year have taught me something valuable.

I believe that each friend comes in to your life at the time you need them the most. You kinda have to look at it as they are there in that moment to help, to support and to teach.

Sometimes friends may even decide they no longer want to share the journey with you. Perhaps they are working on something in their own lives. I know it is hard, especially for those folks we really care about and to whom we have given part of our heart. I suppose the hardest thing is to let go and to let go of the love and the part of us that goes with them. I have had many people who have walked in and out of my life and some I still keep in contact with, others I do not. I do not feel badly that they are no longer a part of my life, but there are a few that I do miss terribly.

I suppose that is why I enjoy the friendships I have managed to maintain over the years. Perhaps it is better to say that they have maintained me. These are the ones that I have inside jokes with, that I don't have to explain a thing to, who understand why I am the way I am or am drawn to the things I am drawn to. They are the ones who wink and smile at me when someone assumes something incorrectly about me or when I feign ignorance on a particular subject laugh with me about it after wards. Some of these friends have even blessed me by metamorphasising from friend to sister. They are most precious of all to me.

For me, knowing that a person is there is good. Even if I may not be able to talk to them a lot, it is enough to know they are there. I too am here. Each one of my friends and I share a time in our lives that was special, exciting, sad, tumultuous, joyful, you name the flavor. These times in our lives are graven on my heart in gratitude and much love and they mean more to than these feeble words can ever express.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Harbingers of Sping

This past Thursday on our way home from work my daughter said she saw a robin. I couldn't imagine it to be true, after all it was only the beginning of February and I was sure that the red breasted lovely would not be back up north for at least another month. Besides our northern Pennsylvanian weather prestidigitator Punxsutawney Phil had determined that we had a good six weeks left to winter. Well, I was corrected when she pointed to a tree on the corner that was virtually covered in robins! An entire flock of robins all roosted in an large oak tree. What a welcome sight they were although they did seem quite cold.

But perhaps they were right and Phil was wrong. This Shabbat and Sunday we had a delicious taste of spring. The earth was damp and the air was warm and moist. The heat and light of the sun felt so good on my body and more particularly my mind. I had to take a long walk and refresh my mind both days. I saw tiny buds forming on some trees and some of the earliest spring bulbs beginning to peek out. Then later that night I saw the moon. She was so bright, so full and so lovely! I was happy I saw her and it brought a happy ending to a lovely prequel of spring.

The only thing I missed were the dancing trees last night. Did any of you happen to catch a glimpse?

Friday, February 06, 2009

The Mom Song

I saw another version of this video sometime ago but I enjoyed this version a bit more. The lyrics are in the video so you won't miss a word, not that you could, she's a mom after all.

I think the strangest thing for me is that the older I get the more I morph into my mother. It amazes me how you just don't appreciate what mothers are saying until you are older. The light bulb went off for me when I was in my thirties. I mean I always loved my mother but I did not realize on a heart level what was really involved in raising four children in a less than functional situation. The heartache and joy of child rearing is intense in the best of circumstances, but she did it, and I must say, looking at my siblings and I, she did a hell of a job. None of us are perfect, but we are loving human beings, we love our kids, we work and we try to contribute to society.

I remember one time sitting at the top of the stairs at her house, maybe it was 5 of so years ago and after a few beers, she said to me she felt like she failed as a mother. I told her she was the absolute best mother ever, and I meant it from the bottom of my heart. I have always said that...she was strong, she tried so hard, and could admit when she was wrong. She loved her kids and although she was no Donna Reed, she was perfect for us kids, G-d knows she needed lots of stamina with me.

So anyway, here is to all mothers, daughters and even sons out there!

And remember, dear children, you WILL appreciate my counsel someday, especially when you do have kinderlach of your own (you KNOW what they say about karma...) Yep, then you will realize I am usually's a mom power we have...