Baal Shem Tov, or Besht — the founder of Chasidism —
Blessing the Sun
After months of thinking about it, I created a liturgy for blessing the Sun on April 8th, 2009. We had a great crowd of some 40 people in Childs Park, Northampton MA, using it. See a modified version of this liturgy for use throughout the year here.
We only say this blessing once every 28 years - that's approximately a month of years. I wrote a kavanah in four parts to complement the traditional blessing. The blessing itself is completely simple: Barukh Atah...oseh ma'aseh v'reishit Blessed be You YHVH our God ruler of all space and time (ha'olam), who does the act of beginning-creation. One can also say this blessing anytime one witnesses the beauty of Creation, unshaped by human hands.
The most important line in the following liturgy, and my favorite line, comes from P'ri Eitz Hadar: "Return the whole of creation now to its original strength"—it's something we desperately need our entire civilization to focus on. Prayer is part of that process of refocusing. I've also rewritten this liturgy to be used over the whole year.
Here's the English for the blessings; see notes on the text below: [Download the Hebrew/English pdf here]
And we know that You promised 'A day comes that burns like an oven' - not just as a parable but as a warning. For You have given our hands power to overturn the orders of creation. But just as you promised, 'a day comes,' You also promised, 'And the Sun of Righteousness will shine for you, and healing will be in her winged rays.' So may You bless us in Your mercy.
II. Please God, give us wisdom and knowledge and skillful hands to heal, and heal the Skies from our sins. Heal us so we may heal.
Surround us with Shekhinah's radiance that the blessing of the sun may flow over us, for life and not for death, for blessing and not for curse, as it says, 'I will open for you the expanses of the Heavens and I will empty out for you a blessing beyond what is enough and Earth's fruit will not be destroyed because of you.'
III. God full of compassion, remember Your covenant with all life, the covenant of the waters of Noah. Turn over the bow in our hands so that it may become a shield over the garden of Life. Make Your Shekhinah dwell with us, spread a Sukkah of compassion and peace over us, over all Life's species.
As an eagle arouses its nest, arouse the flow of Love over Your world to give them all life, with the river of Your delights water them. Give the hungry their bread faithfully in all of their places of habitat.
IV. May it be Your will, YHVH our God and God of our ancestors that the majesty and power of the blessings which we bless today, will become lights in the wellspring of blessings of the Tree of Life, and that the bow will appear a crown of beauty to the Sun's orb, and may the whole return now to its original strength, joyful and beautified with its colors, so that we and our descendants may merit to live many days on Earth, like the days of the Skies over the Land.
Blessed be YHVH forever, amen, amen!
"health" -- arukhah, a poetic word appearing often in the prophets, also meaning healing.
"A day comes" -- Malakhi 4:1
"And the Sun of Righteousness" -- shemesh tz'dakah, Malakhi 4:2, usu. translated "...with healing in its wings". Here the sun is feminine "her wings", though in midrash and Kabbalah the sun is generally thought of as masculine.
"skillful hands" -- Psalms 78:72
"Shekhinah's radiance" -- what the righteous enjoy in the coming world, but also in the Sefardi Ushpizin something we pray for in the here and now.
"will flow over us" -- from P'ri Eitz Hadar, the first Tu Bish'vat seder, published in the 17th c. as part of the Kabbalistic work Chemdat Yamim.
"I will open for you" -- Malakhi 3:10-11, "expanses", arubot, is used to describe the release of the flood waters in the Noah story; here it's meaning is reversed from destruction to abundance.
"destroyed because of you" -- usu. interpreted to mean "your produce will not be destroyed", but new times reveal new meanings.
"covenant of the waters of Noah" -- the covenant was not made with humans first, but rather with the land and with all the creatures, Genesis 9:9-12
"bow in our hands" -- I had the image of the rainbow in mind. In God's covenant with Noah and all life, the rainbow symbolizes that God's bow is overturned so that the arrows will no longer shoot at the earth. Now we have turned the bow over again, changing the sun's rays into arrows.
"spread over us" -- a refrain found many places, but especially in the Sefardi liturgy for Ushpizin, where it is echoed several times.
"As an eagle arouses" -- Deuteronomy 32:11
"the river of Your delights" -- Psalms 36:8
"Give the hungry their bread" -- Psalms 146:7
"May it be Your will...that the majesty and power of [our] blessings...become lights in the wellspring of blessings" -- another quote from the P'ri Eitz Hadar blessing. The original ends: "of the Righteous One", though this epithet means for Yesod and Tiferet, which in any case stands for the whole Tree of Life.
"become lights" -- lim'orot, the word used for the sun and moon in Genesis 1:16 ("And God made the two great lights"), used in this quote from P'ri Eitz Hadar to imply a restoration of the original light of creation.
"Tree of Life" -- in Kabbalah, the sefirot; in ecology and evolution, the process of unfolding and becoming which makes all living things our relations, a process whose diversity is overwhelming and wondrous.
"the bow will appear" -- v'nir'atah hkeshet, from Genesis 9:14, quoted by P'ri Eitz Hadar as a sign of the restoration of original blessing. (Note however that for much of Kabbalah, the rainbow has the opposite meaning, that God needed to be reminded, k'v'yakhol, not to destroy the Earth.) The grammatical form is past tense with the Biblical vav hahipukh, which makes it future tense.
"a crown of beauty" -- from the blessing over the moon, who is described mysteriously as "a crown of beauty to the womb-laden, who are destined to renew like her". The rainbow created by the sun stands in the sky opposite the sun like a crown around our own shadow, but the beauty of this crown belongs to the sun.
"May the whole now return" -- a quote from P'ri Eitz Hadar, and one of the most deeply ecological sentiments I have ever encountered in any pre-modern text (i.e., before ecology was even a concept).
"joyful and beautified" -- also from P'ri Eitz Hadar, its referent in the original context is ambiguous, syntactically fitting with the rainbow but grammatically (by gender) with "the whole". Either way, it's a good thing.
"like days of the Skies over the Land" -- Deuteronomy 11:21, a more concrete translation of "like the days of the Heavens over the Earth".
"Land" -- two words, adamah and aretz, can both mean "Earth"; both are used within these blessings. While adamah also means "earth" in the sense of soil and ground, aretz can mean "land" in the sense of agriculture or of the nation (i.e., "This land is your land").
I'm glad i found the website, it looks super
Posted by: gerald sussman at April 2, 2009 4:42 PM
To the blessings you offer I can say only "Keyn y'hi ratzon." So may it be, the will of the One. To Rabbi David: I am grateful to you, as to your namesake the Psalmist of old, for the gift of articulating so beautifully what is deep in the hearts of so many of your fellow human beings. May you personally experience the blessings of creation, as our tradition says, "ad b'li dai" - without end!
Posted by: Natalie L. Gorvine at April 2, 2009 4:43 PM
Where is the same prayer in Hebrew?
=> The download link is at the top of the page and also here:
Posted by: Gil Nativ at April 3, 2009 1:37 AM
Brilliant, Reb Dovid! (Sun pun intended.) Thank you and Chag kosher v'same'ach,
Posted by: Mattisyahu Brown at April 8, 2009 3:26 AM
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