Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Here Comes the Sun!

I arose at 5 am, walked over to meet Tanya and Rosa and Laura, and then caught at cab to the Goldman Promenade to celebrate birkhat ha-chamah, the blessing over the sun.  This is a unique event that takes place once every twenty eight years.  At a literal level, it is nonsensical: supposedly this marks the time that the sun returns to exactly where it was in the sky, at the exact hour of its creation on the fourth day.  Of course we know the sun is much older than this, and wasn't set in the sky in a particular instant.  Nonetheless, just as we continue to use the Jewish calendar even though we know the earth is not 5769 years old, we continue to celebrate this blessing.  A big part of religious life involves learning to think in terms of metaphor; taken literally, almost the entire enterprise is ridiculous.  And this blessing is rich with metaphor.  Now, more than ever, we need to be aware of the sun as a source of energy, a gift from the Creator. As Arthur Wascow and many others have noted, we can use this blessing time to celebrate the beauty of the Holy One's creation, take note of our responsibility to it (and, sadly, recognize the damage we've done) and commit ourselves to the hard work of developing cleaner, alternative energy sources.

OK, enough philosophizing--on to the event itself.  The Goldman Promenade is on the edge of the desert, just outside the city, which arrays itself in full splendor across the valley.  We looked out over the entire old city as the sky filled with light, the first rays of rich orange sunlight gleaming off the pure gold Dome of the Rock and then illuminating the full landscape of Jerusalem stone. Hundreds of people had the same idea, so the place was mobbed.  We went to join a Jewish renewal group, which greeted the sunrise with tamborines and fiddles and wonderful chanting. There were also more traditional groups, who had set up their own mechitzas, and many individuals, wandering around, davenning, or just taking in the spectacle.  I wore my beautiful new fleece tallit, which Shira Kronenberg made for me.  It was perfect for the occasion--warm, comfortable, and decorated with the four elements,  in keeping with this unique celebration.

On the long walk home, I watched as the day began to unfold for Jerusalemites.  Some were scurrying to do their last minute Pesach shopping and cleaning.  Others were getting in cars, vans and buses to travel to family for the holy day.  And all around town, children were lighting bonfires in the streets and parking lots, in order to burn their families' remaining chametz (bread products, forbidden during Passover.)  Some things transcend all cultures: whether secular or ultra-Orthodox, boys love making fires and burning things.

Just before coming back to my guest house for a long nap (since seder will start late and go long) I stopped at the "Super-Pharm" in the bus station shopping mall.  Two young male soldiers were in line in front of me, in uniform with their M-16s hung around their necks, as is the custom here. The first was buying about five huge packs of diapers.  The second purchased three packs of condoms.  I wished them both Chag Sameach--a happy Pesach (though I suspect each will experience a different kind of happiness!)

And so with that, Chag Sameach--a joyous Pesach to all, from the City of Gold.  Next--no, make that this--year in Jerusalem.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

No wheat schnapps, oneg was great.