Sunday, April 26, 2009

Afterthoughts about the Blessing of the Sun

I know it's a bit after the fact, and it won't really be relevant again for another 28 years, but this recently came up in a newsletter I received, and I simply had to say something about it.

The Blessing of the Sun (Birkat Hachamah) is a blessing recited once every 28 years, commemorating the work of Creation, and specifically the creation of the sun. It was observed this year, 5769, on the morning of April 8, 2009.

Now, many have noticed that the year number 5769 is not evenly divisible by 28. Dividing 5769 by 28 leaves a remainder of 1. One explanation that has been offered for the discrepancy, which appears to be a traditional explanation, says:
The Sages have already explained to us that during the year of the Flood, the natural order of the world was suspended.
That may be so, but it has absolutely nothing to do with why the division leaves a remainder of one.

A better explanation is simple mathematics, and should be familiar to anyone who remembers the whole debate about whether the Millenium started in 2000 or 2001. (2001 is correct, even though it is not evenly divisible by 1000)

There was no Year 0. In fact, the concept of zero was not a part of human mathematical understanding at the time the Torah was given, nor even at the latest date that the most skeptical scholars believe the Torah was written. The Sun was created in the Year 1.

The first Blessing of the Sun occurred 28 years later, that is Year 1 + 28 years, that is, the Year 29. It occurs again 28 years after that: Year 57, then Year 85, Year 113, and so on, always a number that is divisible by 28 with a remainder of 1 because the remaining 1 is the Year 1, the time of creation, the year that we count from.

I hope this clears things up, because it makes my brain hurt every time I see somebody explain this simple mathematical problem by resorting to the Flood.


גויר said...

Please update your treatment of animals page to reflect the following ruling by a psak halakhah:
"Judaism forbids me to have my companion animals spayed or neutered." FALSE

In 2007, Rabbi Shlomo Amar, the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, issued a ruling, a Psak Halacha, stating that on the basis of the Jewish mandate to prevent cruelty to animals, tsa'ar ba'alei hayim, it is permissible to have your companion animals spayed or neutered, as long as the veterinarian is not Jewish.
(reference link:


JewFAQ said...

Interesting... I'll look into that and update my page as appropriate.

I prefer adopting already-neutered animals anyway. There are so many existing animals in shelters in need of a loving forever-home, most of them already neutered, who might be put to death if people don't adopt them. As I write this, I am sharing my couch with two cats I adopted from a shelter. My first cat (who died in December) was not a shelter cat, but was the result of an unintended pregnancy that would have landed him in a shelter if my roommate and I had not adopted him. This is a much better way to go than encouraging further breeding of animals for pets.

Ed Vert said...

i'm sorry to burst into your blog like this and leave an off-topic comment but i didn't find an email address, so...

my name is nelson, i'm a 35-year old portuguese living in zurich, switzerland for 2 and a half years now.

i found your blog a few months ago and sometimes visit it; i live in the middle of an orthodox jew quarter and... well, i don't mean to stare, but in lisbon, i was never familiar with this culture before. and here... i sometimes feel like 'the only goy in the village'.

and i'm really very curious and interested about the cultural mores surrounding these people's daily lives.

so, that was me. :)

i'd just like to share an interesting piece of online swiss news (again, news to me):

have a good one


Abagale said...

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