A Short Compendium of Customs and Laws Pertaining to
The Blessing on the Sun
Collected from the writings of our Rabbi and Teacher, Hagaon Rabbi Pinchas Zavichi, author of the Responsa “Ateret Paz”
1. The Rabbis taught that when we see the sun at the beginning of its cycle we say “Blessed are You G-d, our Lord, King of the Universe, who makes the acts of Creation.” The sun’s cycle repeats itself every twenty eight years on Wednesday night during the Hebrew month of Nisan, at the mazal (planet zodiac) of Shabtai. During the Creation, at this day and hour, the sun, moon, stars, and planets were placed in the Heavens. The civil date for this day is usually the eight of April.
2. The following is a list of the Hebrew years (and dates) during the 6th millennium on which the sun’s cycle commenced or will commence. On these years the blessing on the sun was said or will be said. The Hebrew years and dates are: 5013, 5041, 5069, 5097, 5125, 5153, 5181, 5209, 5237, 5265, 5293, 5321, 5349, 5377, 5405, 5433, 5461, 5489, 5517, 5545, 5573, 5601, 5629, 5657, 5685, 5713, 5741, 14th of Nisan 5769, 23rd of Nisan 5797, 2nd of Nisan 5825, 12th of Nisan 5853, 21st of Nisan 5881, 2nd of Nisan 5909, 11th of Nisan 5937, 19th of Nisan, 5965, 1st of Nisan 5993. May it be Hashem’s will to show us mercy and merit us to bless the sun at the right time with the righteous Mashiach; may he come speedily in our days.
3. The prevalent custom among the Jews is to say the blessing on the sun with Hashem’s names (áùí åîìëåú) as given above.
4. The blessing on the sun can be said from sunrise to the end of three proportional hours (ùòåú æîðéåú). After this time it can only be said without Hashem’s names as following: “Blessed is He that makes the acts of Creation.”
5. The custom of the Jews in the holy city of Jerusalem, as well as for many other places, is to pray at sunrise and to say the blessing shortly thereafter. After the Kaddish Titkabel (which is said after Ashrei and U'va L’tzion) the congregation exits to the courtyard of the synagogue. At this point the sun has risen high enough to be seen from almost any vantage point in the city. The congregation saids the blessing on the sun in unison with fervor and joy and returns to the synagogue to finish the Morning Prayers.
6. It is customary to say various Psalms that are pertinent to the blessing on the sun. The Psalms typically said are: “The Heavens declare the glory of G-d” (äùîéí îñôøéí ëáåã àì) (Psalm 19), “Praise Hashem, praise Him from the Heavens” (äììåéä äììå àú ä' îï äùîéí) [Psalm 148 until the end of verse 6, “He made a decree which shall not be rescinded” (ç÷ ðúï åìà éòáåø)], the great Hallel “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good” (äåãå ìä' ëé èåá) (Psalm 136),. The congregation ends with the liturgical poem “The Lord is the master over all the acts of creation” (àì àãåï òì ëì äîòùéí) (found in the Shabbat Morning Prayers before kriat shma) which describes the creation of the heavenly bodies, the liturgical poem “Please with strength” (àðà áëç), and finally “For the leader with string music” (ìîðöç áðâéðåú). After the blessing is completed, the congregation finishes the Morning Prayer by saying “House of Jacob, come, and let us walk in the light of Hashem” (Isaiah, 2, 5) (áéú éò÷á ìëå åðìëä áàåø ä'), etc., until the end of Alenu L'shabe’ach. It is customary for the congregants to bless one another at the end of the Morning Prayers by saying “May you merit a long, pleasant, and good life.”
Some have the custom of saying Alenu L'shabe’ach at the time they make the blessing on the sun. They should be careful not to face the sun when saying “we bow” (åàðçðå îùúçåéí). Our custom is to say it only at the end of the Morning Prayer inside the synagogue.
7. The blessing on the sun with Hashem’s names (áùí åîìëåú) can only be said if the sun is visible. If the ball of the sun can be discerned through a thin veil of clouds, the blessing can still be said. However, if the sky is so cloudy that the ball of the sun cannot be seen at all, the blessing cannot be said. However, it is still permissible to say the words “Blessed is He that makes the acts of Creation.”
8. If the sky becomes clear later (before the end of the permissible period for making the blessing) then the full blessing can be said even though the partial blessing (see above) was already said.
9. It is permissible to say the blessing on the sun at sunrise before starting the Morning Prayer if it is likely that clouds will obscure the sun by the time the Morning Prayers are completed.
10. If a sudden break in the clouds allow the sun to be seen during the time when the congregation is reading the shema and it is likely that the clouds will obscure the sun afterwards, it is permissible to interrupt reading the shema to say the blessing. If possible, it is better to wait until a paragraph break in the shema is reached before saying the blessing.
11. It is customary to announce to the congregation, on the evening prior to the day of the blessing, that Morning Prayers will be held at sunrise. In this way the congregration is reminded to wake up early.
12. If one woke up late on the day that the blessing is said and the sun is already visible, then the blessing on the sun should be said immediately after making the blessing over the Torah. (Making the blessing over the Torah first allows one to say the verses and Psalms that are customarily said after the blessing on the sun.)
13. The blessing on the sun, if said during the month of Nisan, takes precedence over the blessing of the trees (áøëú äàéìðåú). However, a circumcision, that occurs on the day that the sun will be blessed, should be performed first whenever possible.
14. Some of the sages have the opinion that the commandment of burning the chametz takes precedence over the blessing on the sun. Therefore, if the sun will be blessed on the day before Passover (as will be the case in the Hebrew year 5769) extra effort should be made to finish all the prayers associated with that blessing before the fourth proportional hour. To expedite matters, the sun should not be blessed in large public forums.
15. The blessing Shechechiyanu (ùäçééðå) is not said over the blessing of the sun even though the sun is blessed only once every twenty eight years. If possible, Shechechiyanu should be said over a new garment or fruit while having the blessing on the sun in mind.
16. There are differing opinions among our sages whether women can make the blessing on the sun. Women should therefore be present during the public blessing of the sun. They should listen to the Prayer Leader and have in mind to fulfill their obligation with his blessing.
17. It is questionable whether a blind man can make the blessing on the sun. Therefore, he should listen carefully to the Prayer Leader’s blessing with the intention of fulfilling any obligation.
The Prayer Leader, in turn, must say the blessing in a loud voice and have intention to make the blessing for himself, for the women, and for any blind people.
18. There are three valid customs concerning the blessing on the sun: Some have the custom of making the blessing softly in unison with the loud blessing of the Prayer Leader. Others have the custom of listening to the blessing of the Prayer Leader with the intention of fulfilling their obligation (they should also answer Amen to his blessing). Finally, some have the custom to wait for the Prayer Leader to finish his blessing, and then to make their own blessing out loud (similar to our custom for counting the omer). When possible, the last custom listed should be followed since it allows women and blind people to easily fulfill their obligations.
19. A child who is old enough to perform the commandments is required to make the blessing on the sun.
20. It is customary for the Rabbi to give a public sermon after the congregation blesses the sun. Some have the custom to give charity and to hold a festive thanksgiving meal after blessing the sun. In this way they thank Hashem for reaching this propitious occasion.
21. A sick person can bless the sun while sitting or lying in bed as long as the sun is visible through a window.
22. Each place in the world has its own proper time for the blessing (starting at the local sunrise and ending before the beginning of the fourth proportional hour for that place).
23. An airplane traveler can make the blessing from the plane if there will not be enough time to make the blessing after the plane lands.
24. The blessing on the sun can be said during a Yom Tov (Festival) without hesitation.
25. A mourner during the seven days of mourning is obligated to say the blessing on the sun. He is also permitted to leave his house for this purpose.
26. Glasses need not be removed before saying the blessing. The blessing can also be made while observing the sun with binoculars, telescopes, and other similar optical devices.
27. The sun cannot be blessed if only seen as a reflection (e.g., in a mirror or on the ocean’s surface).
28. It is best to look at the face of a man called “Abraham” while making the blessing on the sun. (Similarly, one should look at the face of a man called “Isaac” while blessing the New Moon).