When I made a Rosh Hashanah "New Year's resolution" to celebrate every Jewish holiday in 5769, I did not account for one I had never heard of. After all, Birkat Hachamah (Blessing of the Sun), which celebrates that the Earth and the sun are in the same position as at the time of creation, only occurs once every 28 years. When my alarm went off at 4 a.m., I forced myself out of bed so that I wouldn't have to wait until 2037 to make up for a lost opportunity.
I was one of more than 100 Jews to gather on the rooftop of the JCC in Manhattan by 6:30 a.m. today. It was a beautiful mix of Jews of all ages coming together to celebrate this once-in-a-generation holiday. The event, which was organized by the JCC and Hazon, featured a performance of "Here Comes the Sun," religious prayer, and "salutation to the sun" yoga. There was something special about watching so many Jews from different backgrounds, many with kippot and quite a few with tallesim and tefillin, doing yoga, all while I was standing in a jungle gym to get the best pictures. Organizers tried to burn chametz (after all, some other Jewish holiday begins tonight) using sunlight and a magnifying glass, but they gave up and used matches instead.
I've noted before that I gave up Groundhog Day as my favorite holiday because of the exploitation of the groundhog. Today, I discovered a new holiday for which I can wake up fartook in the morning, stand outside with masses of people, and bundle up in the cold (it wasn't as cold as Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, in early February, but it did snow in the City today). I've heard from people who celebrated the holiday on their own in areas without a big Jewish community, which is of course perfectly acceptable. Nevertheless, gathering together for Birkat Hachamah on top of the JCC was one of the unique benefits of living in New York City.
Click here to see NY1's video of the Birkat Hachamah celebrations at the JCC in Manhattan and Borough Hall in Brooklyn.