(Video by John R. Ellement)
By John R. Ellement, Globe Staff
BROOKLINE -- Saying prayers and singing songs, some 100 Boston-area Jews gathered on a hilltop today as part of a traditional celebration that occurs just once every 28 years.
(George Rizer/Globe Staff)
Known as the ''Blessing of the Sun'' -- or "Birkat Hachamah" in Hebrew -- participants braved the chilly pre-dawn cold that blanketed the hilltop in Larz Anderson Park in Brookline to catch the sun as it rose above Boston's skyline.
The gathering was led by Rabbi Barbara Penzner of Temple Hillel B'nai Torah in West Roxbury and Rabbi Victor Reinstein of the Nehar Shalom temple in Jamaica Plain. They said that in the Jewish tradition today is the day when the sun rises as it did on the fourth day of Creation, which was when God created the sun and the stars.
The sun is aligned in this location at sunrise just once every 28 years, according to the tradition and the Jewish calendar.
"It's a cycle of 28 years, meaning people, perhaps at most, might be around for four cycles,'' Reinstein said. "It's a wonderful opportunity to consider the great changes in our lives and in the world. ... It's a remarkable moment to consider this great cycle.''
Shivering in winter clothes and some draped with blankets, participants gathered on the high point in Anderson Park, which provides a breathtaking view of downtown Boston's skyline to the east.
They said traditional Jewish prayers, recited the poem, “the Sun’’ written by Mary Oliver, which includes these words:
"do you think there is anywhere, in any language,
a word billowing enough
for the pleasure
that fills you,
as the sun
as it warms you."
They also sang a lively rendition of George Harrison’s joyful, "Here Comes The Sun."
But when sunrise arrived at 6:15 a.m., the sun was obscured by a line of gray clouds, forcing a delay in jubilation for a few minutes until the sun finally rose above the cloud line.
"There it is!"' Penzner shouted, bringing a shout of celebration from the celebrants. "You can see it, the bright pink in that tiny sliver."
Among those attending was an ebullient Linda Schiller, a Watertown resident who was attending her first "blessing of the sun.'' Schiller is a member of the third sponsoring temple, Dorshei Tzedek of Newton.
"I've never known about it before. This was the first time it was on my horizon, so to speak, and no pun intended,'' she said.”It was very thrilling to watch the sun come up’’ with friends and others from the Jewish community.
Noting the event celebrates the date and time Jews believe God created the sun and the stars, Schiller said, adding that "It felt like a celebration of a new Creation.''
Asked for her future plans, Schiller said with a smile: "Twenty-eight years from now with God's blessing and grace I will be back here. I imagine by then I will be wintering somewhere warmer.''
(George Rizer/Globe Staff)